On April 17, 2020, NJ Lawyer and Bianchi Law Group partner, Robert “Bob” Bianchi appeared on Chasing News with Bill Spadea to discuss NYC mayor Bill De Blasio increasing community support from citizens during the coronavirus pandemic for social distancing violations by sending photos to the 311 app.


Mayor Bill De Blasio has instituted a new dimension of enforcement to gain compliance with social distancing and gathering in public rules he has implemented.
By use of calling 311, De Blasio is encouraging citizens to take a picture of those violating the social distancing orders and send them to the City.
We debated this on Chasing News with Bill Spadea and Lisa Durden.  The controversy is understandable as taking pictures and providing them to law enforcement sounds a little Big Brother-ish.
However, I would like to take a different angle on this as a former chief executive law enforcement officer.  As I have repeatedly stated on TV, when there is a crisis (which certainly the pandemic is), then government has a right, in fact a duty, to limit some civil rights of the citizens to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the community.  There is nothing new, or novel about this aspect of our democracy.
The only questions constitutionally are:
  1. Is there a need to limit rights for the protection of the community?
  2. Is the manner the government is doing it “rationally related” to addressing the danger they are confronting?
After the virus abates, then it is incumbent on the executive branch to bring back greater protections of our personal civil liberties/rights.
Also importantly, intelligence led policing since 911 shows us that we are all in this together.  That is, “if you see something, say something.”  Police resources are limited and for many years law enforcement has asked the community to proactively be their “eyes and ears” to alert them to those violating the law, or of a potentially dangerous condition.
Lastly, you have no privacy rights in public from a legal point of view.  So, if one is committing a crime, or other violation of law, then you risk detection.
This pandemic is too serious to play games.  You may disagree with the how, when, and the manner of limiting social interactions—that’s a debatable point.  But to me, once a lawfully order is in place that literally has life and death consequences, we as an entire public should assist law enforcement in doing their job.
The life that may be saved may be your own, that of a loved one, or that of a stranger who is loved by others.
What are your thoughts?