A New York City police officer grabs a male commuter by his jacket and pushes him through an emergency exit door at a subway station in Manhattan, video posted to social media shows. “You’re being disruptive,” the officer tells him.
The man in the 35-second video clip — which has garnered more than one million views and ushered in a fresh wave of criticism of the police — said in an interview that the confrontation erupted when he asked the officer and his partner to put on masks.
Andrew Gilbert, 27, said he had just gotten off the train on his way to work at around 8:45 a.m. on Tuesday when he approached two officers at the Eighth Street subway station in Manhattan who were not wearing masks and asked them to put them on, in accordance with the rules.
The M.T.A. requires masks to be worn inside subway stations and on trains, and the Police Department requires officers to wear face coverings in public transit settings.
“The male officer sort of started playing dumb with me, saying, like, “I can’t hear what you’re saying through your mask,” Mr. Gilbert said on Wednesday.
The back-and-forth continued for about a minute, Mr. Gilbert said, before the officer shoved him about 80 feet backward and pushed him out of the exit door. “If you’re not going to ride the train, just get out,” Mr. Gilbert said the officer told him.
Mr. Gilbert can be heard asking the officer and his partner, who he said held open the door but did not otherwise participate, for their badge numbers. He never received them, he said.
The flouting of mask mandates by some police officers in New York City has been the subject of criticism throughout the pandemic. Face coverings have remained required on the city’s public transit and at indoor subway stations since April 2020. But many reports on social media and in local news outlets have drawn attention to instances of officers ignoring those rules.
“My biggest thought was just disappointment,” said Mr. Gilbert, who is from Queens. “It’s an endless stream of incidents like this and every single time it’s sort of the same thing. Politicians talk about how terrible it is and then nothing happens, there’s no follow-up. With the officers involved, there’s never any accountability. And the same thing happens a week later.”
The Police Department said on Wednesday that the incident in the video was under internal review, and the police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea, called the actions depicted in it “absolutely inexcusable” at a news conference.
He said that he asked that the patrol officers involved be disciplined, while adding that he would not expect them to be fired, suspended or placed on modified duty.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said at his own news conference earlier in the day that he was “troubled” by the video. “I didn’t like what I saw one bit,” he said.
Mr. de Blasio noted that he had not seen the full lead-up to the interactions. “But I saw the officers not wearing their masks in the subway, that’s evident. That’s unacceptable,” he said. “We’ve given this instruction a thousand times: If you’re going to be in law enforcement, you actually have to participate in following the law.”
His remarks came as he announced that all city workers — including police officers — must be vaccinated by the end of the month or lose their paychecks, removing an alternative option to submit to regular testing.
Earlier this summer, New York City police officials warned that unvaccinated personnel would face discipline if they do not wear masks while on duty. A department spokeswoman said at the time that officers who did not comply would face “appropriate disciplinary action,” but did not offer details about what penalties they might incur.
Vaccination rates among officers lag behind those in the broader city population. About 70 percent of the department’s 36,000 uniformed and 15,000 civilian employees have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the city, compared to roughly 85 percent of adult city residents. The Police Benevolent Association vowed on Wednesday to fight Mr. de Blasio’s mandate in court.
Mr. Gilbert said he did not believe that action would be taken against the maskless officers he encountered.
“I don’t have much confidence there will be any punishment,” said Mr. Gilbert, who added that he planned to seek legal guidance before determining whether he would file a grievance with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates complaints from the public about officer misconduct.
It is unclear whether any officers have ever been disciplined for mask violations.
Between May 2020 and August 2021, the Civilian Complaint Review Board referred about 316 complaints about officers who failed to adhere to Covid-era protocols, including social distancing guidelines and mask mandates, to the Police Department. But the department did not respond to questions on Wednesday about whether any personnel had been penalized for such behavior.
The Rev. Fred Davie, who chairs the review board, said in an interview that while mask-related complaints are referred back to the police, the issue could fall within the group’s purview as an abuse of officers’ authority.
“We see it quite a bit in the body-worn camera footage that we get,” he said. “It may be time for the board to review this and now start investigating ourselves.”
Janno Lieber, the acting chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said Wednesday that incidents with officers like the one in the video were “really undermining” broader efforts to enforce mask-wearing on public transit, which has begun to decrease.
“I’m upset by what I saw,” Mr. Lieber said. “Obviously we have more than a few cops who aren’t complying.”
He added: “Frankly, we’re trying to bring riders back to the system. I don’t want to see them being pushed out of the system by people who are not complying with the rules that the federal government sets.”
Victoria Hall, who is from the Bronx and recorded the video, said in an interview on Wednesday that she might have overlooked the incident were it not for the behavior of the male officer, who she said was mocking Mr. Gilbert and “being really obnoxious.”
She added: “The police officer should have just said, ‘Thank you for reminding me. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have forgotten, I’ll be more mindful in the future.’”
Ms. Hall said the willingness of the officers to flout public safety precautions frustrated her.
“I just heard 100 times on the train that I need to wear a mask,” she said she thought to herself. “Why are you special?”
Michael Gold and Ashley Southall contributed reporting.