Mask mandates are a thing of the past for nearly all New Yorkers outside of the health care industry, but a group of NYPD officers caught up in a class action lawsuit over conditions in municipal courthouses remain under order to a federal judge to cover his nose and mouth.
Many of the 500 officers in the NYPD Court Section who process and transport defendants from jail cells to arraignment are not happy to follow the rules that have been removed for all. others.
“No one in the entire building has to wear masks,” a Court Section officer told the Daily News. “Everyone has access to the defendants, but we are the ones being punished after the mayor and governor said we don’t have to use it anymore.”
Last week, police officers from the Court Section were threatened with command disciplinary action or suspension if they were caught not wearing masks, despite the order going against common sense, one of the officers said.
“Court officers, corrections officers, probation officers, attorneys all have face-to-face interaction with the prisoner. But none of them have to wear masks,” the officer said. “So the NYPD is the one with the germs?
“This makes us look like we are sick,” the officer said. “Everyone wants to know why we wear masks, but no one wants to help. I’m sure if (Police Benevolent Association president) Pat Lynch still had to wear a mask, he’d be raising hell.”
When he arrived, Lynch said that the “warrant is out of touch with current reality” and that “there is no rational reason for it to remain at certain NYPD facilities.”
The class action lawsuit was filed in Brooklyn Federal Court in November 2021 on behalf of detainees incarcerated in the city’s state courts during the tail end of the COVID pandemic.
The detainees’ lawsuit complained that a lack of masks and overcrowded and filthy conditions at the central registration facility serving the courthouses made holding cells petri dishes for deadly viruses.
“The (city) failed to follow any of the established guidelines for how jails and correctional institutions should mitigate the risks of transmission of COVID-19,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit was filed months after then-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s July 2021 order requiring the city’s 300,000 workers to get a COVID vaccine or wear masks indoors and get weekly COVID tests.
The rule varied among city agencies and was challenged by city employee unions. He acquired some teeth in October 2021, when de Blasio imposed an October 29 deadline for workers to receive vaccinations. Those who complied were offered a $500 bonus and those who did not faced possible punishment.
Amid the variable enforcement of the rule, nearly 40 detainees who spent time at the city’s different central registration facilities signed the class action lawsuit. Not everyone got COVID, said his attorney, Richard Cardinale.
“These were good people, no one with a criminal record,” Cardinale said of his clients. “They were crammed into unsanitary cells with no exams, no rapid COVID tests, and no masks. The city had put on this image that they cared about stopping COVID, but nothing was being done.”
On Jan. 26, 2022, the city crafted a “consent order” with Cardinale’s clients, pledging to do a better job of social distancing and providing detainees with masks, as well as routinely sanitizing cells to as the case worked its way through federal authorities. court.
“The City will continue to require that all staff at the Central Check-In Facility wear a CDC-recommended mask when interacting with detainees, other staff, and visitors inside the facility,” the consent order required, without specifically identifying who should wear exactly one mask.
In February 2022, about two weeks after the city’s consent order was filed, Governor Hochul announced the end of the statewide mask requirement, marking a turning point for New York’s response. York to COVID.
Masking requirements persisted for some government workers. The requirement for public transportation workers remained in effect through September. Mask mandates at city hospitals continued through last month.
Requirements were also relaxed for state employees in the court system and employees of the city’s Department of Correction, who work in the courthouses and their associated jails, but are not considered central booking center staff.
“Our court officers and staff are not required to wear masks, but may do so on a voluntary basis,” a spokesperson for the state court system said.
Under the court order, only NYPD Court Section officers are officially considered central reserve staff, so only those officers are required to continue to wear masks.
“The NYPD is currently subject to a court order requiring all NYPD personnel to wear masks at the Central Check-in Facility when interacting with detainees, other staff, and visitors within these facilities,” an NYPD spokesman said. “The department has taken the necessary steps to ensure that its personnel comply with the requirements of the court order.”
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The agreement allows the city to seek changes to the order, but thus far, the city has taken no steps to do so. A spokesperson for the city’s Legal Department said attorneys were “investigating” asking for rule changes.
“In the meantime, we are complying with the court order,” the spokesperson said.
Lynch said that instead of punishing his union members who break the rule, the city “needs to go back to court and update the order. This kind of nonsense is yet another reason why cops are quitting en masse.”
The consent order also ensures that detainees are given masks to wear in cells and while being taken to court. Many inmates refuse masks or take them off in cells, a judicial source said.
COVID continues to be a problem in the city with about two people dying a day, 32 people hospitalized and more than 540 diagnosed with the virus, according to the statistics of the Department of Health of the city.
Cardinale believes the mask mandate should still be in place. In his view, one of the jobs of city government is to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, whether it be another form of COVID or the common cold.
“The situation is so changing with COVID,” he said. “There are so many problems at this facility and Central Booking has such a dirty environment that everything in the consent order should continue. There is no way to predict what will happen next.”