A video posted to social media overnight showed that New York’s so-called finest still has much to do to live up to its nickname that a handful of NYPD officers betrayed when they detained a little boy for selling candy on the subway.
Although it was not immediately clear when the video was recorded, it must have been fairly recently since some of the officers were wearing face masks that have become part of the country’s mandatory dress code during the coronavirus pandemic. What was clear, though, was that the COVID-19 public health crisis has promoted widespread unemployment that abruptly stopped people’s paychecks, forcing them to figure out ways to make ends meet while desperately awaiting stimulus checks from the government.
That may have been what prompted the little boy to do what most New Yorkers who ride the city’s subway system have grown accustomed to seeing — going from subway car to subway car selling everything from candy to batteries to toys. Sometimes people perform dance routines for money in subway cars. Other times youth sports groups will ask for petition signatures and small donations to pay for equipment.
It’s an act that New Yorkers have grown numb to. Everybody, that is, except NYPD officers, apparently, who have an unfortunate history of accosting nonviolent alleged offenders in the subway — especially if they’re Black or brown.
The video begins with a wide-angle view from a distance and showed a commotion on the subway platform at the 145th Street A/B/C/D Station in Harlem with multiple officers with NYPD jackets on. One of them was wrangling with someone who onlookers can be heard describing as a “little boy.”
The person filming approaches the fray and zooms in to show the little boy crying while he was being restrained by an officer. Another officer can be seen kicking bags of the candy the boy was allegedly selling onto the subway tracks. The imagery seemed to show the police violating the social distancing guidelines that health officials have recommended and that NYPD officers have reportedly enforcing across the city. Perhaps even more troubling was that at least one officer could be seen not wearing a mask, a clear violation of City Hall’s guidance for everybody who is out in public in the city.
Watch the unfortunate footage below. Please be advised that explicit language can be heard on the video.
The police encounter came hours after journalist and activist Shaun King shared a video showing a different set of NYPD officers arresting a man on a subway platform. The alleged criminal’s offense? Telling police to enforce the city’s social distancing rules in the crowded trains station.
The NYPD vowed last month that it would not “slow arrests” despite a growing number of coronavirus cases among police officers and inmates alike. As of Friday night, New York City had experienced more than 5,000 deaths because of the coronavirus, more than 94,000 cases and nearly 26,000 hospitalizations. Of that number, CNN reported that nearly 20 percent of the NYPD’s uniformed officers have been out sick and at least 12 members of the police force have died after testing positive for COVID-19. Criminalizing people for the aforementioned nonviolent crimes could ironically expose them to the coronavirus since the dangerous respiratory illness has been spreading quickly throughout the city’s jails.
A little less than five months ago, some NYPD officers were caught on camera arresting a man for selling candy in a different Harlem subway station, local news outlet NY1 reported. In that instance, police said the subject was arrested because he was “obstructing governmental administration” for refusing to provide identification. Officers proceeded to write him a summons for the so-called quality of life violation.
A couple of days later, the NYPD arrested a woman for selling churros inside of a Brooklyn subway station.
The NYPD has a history of being aggressive with nonviolent offenders who just happen to be Black and brown. Before the city was on heightened alert over the coronavirus but still within the timeframe that health officials have retroactively calculated there was a public health threat from it, a police officer was recorded on video repeatedly pushing a teenage girl for allegedly not paying her fare by jumping over the turnstile in early February. Chances are that the officer’s actions were not part of any NYPD training. The teenager said she was just trying to get home.
“We are criminalizing poverty and people who can’t afford certain things and I am very disappointed that the governor is doing that,” New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams told NewsOne at the time. “We can’t use police to solve all social ills. Some circumstances police are not equipped. I haven’t even heard him talk about underlying issues. Police can’t be the first response to everything.”
As the coronavirus continues to tighten its grip around the world and especially the U.S. right now (New York City is the country’s epicenter), the NYPD might want to heed Williams words since, as the saying goes, we’ve all got bigger fish to fry right about now.