Jan. 13, 2020 By Allie Griffin
The New York Attorney General announced today that she has launched an investigation to see whether the NYPD has been targeting communities of color when it comes to fare evasion.
Attorney General Letitia James has sent a letter to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea requesting that he provide data and various reports that may indicate whether officers have exhibited racial biases in arresting or summonsing people for turnstile jumping.
James noted that current and former NYPD officers have given sworn statements alleging that the department had an unofficial policy of targeting minorities for fare evasion through to at least 2015.
She noted that this alleged discrimination may still be continuing today as the groups are overrepresented in recent fare evasion violation data.
Black and Hispanic New Yorkers made up nearly 90 percent of the arrests for fare evasion between October 2017 and June 2019, according to James. The two groups account for a little over 50 percent of the city’s population.
“We’ve all read the stories and seen the disturbing videos of men, women, and children being harassed, dragged away, and arrested by officers in our city’s subway system, which is why we are launching an investigation into this deeply troublesome conduct,” James said in a statement.
In October, a photo of a teen who had been tasered by police at a Corona subway station went viral when it was tweeted by State Sen. Jessica Ramos with the caption “All of this for $2.75?!?!”
The NYPD was criticized for the use of force, but the department said officers were responding to report of the teens threatening one another with knives.
Last month, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Board approved the hiring of 500 additional transit police officers to crack down on fare evasions, despite pushback from local lawmakers.
James said her office won’t think twice about using any investigative means necessary if the NYPD fails to cooperate.
“While we are hopeful that the NYPD will cooperate thoroughly with this investigation, we will not hesitate to use every investigative tool at our disposal to protect subway riders and the people of this city,” she said.
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson applauded James for launching the investigation.
“For decades, law enforcement has disproportionately impacted communities of color and as we reform our criminal justice system we need to know if this practice is continuing with fare evasion,” Johnson said.