A recent video taken by a NYU student shows him confronting two NYPD officers for not wearing masks inside a Brooklyn subway station. One of the officers brushed him off as a “male version of Karen.”
The interaction came just one day after the MTA directed the city’s cops to crack down on maskless transit riders with $50 fines.
Mihai Ciocan, an 18-year-old freshman at NYU, said he was walking through the Clark Street station in Brooklyn on Tuesday night when he passed two officers without face coverings in a narrow mezzanine. “Does the fine apply to you guys or just me if I don’t wear a mask in the subway?” he inquired.
“Actually, it states that as long as you can maintain six feet of distance, you don’t have to wear the mask,” Officer McMahon replied. “If you want to step within six feet of me, I’ll gladly put on the mask.”
After Ciocan pointed out that the two officers were standing close to each other, the second officer, who is also not wearing a mask, asked whether the teenager had anything better to do.
“You’re the person who calls someone, when someone’s selling a water bottle on the streets, you’re the person who calls them. Alright Karen. You’re the male version of Karen,” said the second cop, identified by the teen as Officer Saeed. “Take care, Karen.”
Ciocan, who shared video of the confrontation on his TikTok page, said he was taken aback by the officer’s comments.
“It’s kind of shocking. I know New York was hit really hard by the pandemic. I expected better from them,” he told Gothamist. “It doesn’t really match up with the whole ‘Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect’ thing I keep seeing on their cars.”
Asked about the cop’s use of the term Karen — a popular meme typically applied to white women who call the police on people of color — Ciocan responded: “Good for him. He probably got bullied in high school.”
A spokesperson for the NYPD did not respond to Gothamist’s inquiries about the video.
“Everyone in the transit system is required to wear a mask – it’s the law – no exceptions,” NYC Transit President Sarah Feinberg said in a statement. “This is a matter of respect for fellow New Yorkers, including our customers and employees, and for public health and safety.”
The transit agency did not say whether anyone had been fined for refusing to wear a mask.
From NBC 4:
Ciocan says he recorded the interaction before he found it “shocking” that the officers weren’t wearing masks in the subway just a day after the MTA’s fine went into effect. He added that he’s disappointed by the interaction and hopes more will be done to make sure everyone follows the rules.
“I just feel like equating [‘Karen’] to just asking why they weren’t wearing a mask wasn’t really appropriate,” Ciocan said, adding that seeing officers wear a mask would be the easiest way for them to gain trust from the community.
Back in June, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told police officers, who were often seen without a mask during protests and other encounters, to also follow the mandate. But other New Yorkers say they continue to see cops on duty without face coverings.
“It sends a message that they’re above the law, they can do what they want and they don’t care if they’re hurting people,” said Ken L. of Brooklyn Heights.
In a statement, the NYPD tells NBC New York that it’s important officers are reinforcing best health practices and wearing a mask for their own safety. The department went on to say they’re doing spot checks of officers throughout the system.
The MTA has said that enforcement officers will issue a fine as a last resort. Officers are expected to first offer you a free mask and if you refuse, then you could be issued a fine.
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