In a statement released Monday, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced her office would be investigating the NYPD over allegations its officers have illegally targeted black and brown commuters on the city’s subway system. James’ probe is the latest development in the city’s effort to crack down on fare evasion on the transit system—a policy supported by both Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“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, seeming to reference viral videos of police fighting a group of black teenagers or arresting Latinx women selling churros.
“If groups of New Yorkers have been unfairly targeted because of the color of their skin, my office will not hesitate to take legal action,” she continued.
While she hoped the NYPD would cooperate with the investigation, James also warned that her office “ will not hesitate to use every investigative tool at our disposal to protect subway riders and the people of this city.”
James’ announcement came a month after explosive affidavits surfaced from current and former NYPD officers that allege they were given explicit instructions to target black and Latinx people for not paying their fares.
“I noticed that police officers often targeted black and Hispanic homeless civilians as a result of the arrest quota,” Pierre Maximilien, a retired cop, wrote in one such statement. “Further some officers would target immigrants due to the language barrier to manufacture an arrest.”
Data cited in the attorney general’s statement says black and Latinx New Yorkers received 70 percent of all fare evasion citations—and 90 percent of arrests—between October 2017 and June 2019. As the Marshall Project reports, one recent study of fare evasion cases in Brooklyn found police made “disproportionately high rates of turnstile arrests” in poor black neighborhoods.