State AG investigating racial discrimination in transit policing

Policeman watching in a subway station in New York City.
Policeman watching in a subway station in New York City.
J2R / Shutterstock

State AG investigating racial discrimination in transit policing

The attorney general threatened to take legal action if police are targeting people of color when committing fare evasion arrests.
January 14, 2020

The New York state attorney general’s office is investigating whether police officers target people of color when enforcing fare evasion laws in the transportation system, The New York Times reports. 

As part of the investigation, Attorney General Letitia James sent a letter on Monday to Police Commissioner Dermot Shea requesting data on arrests and violations related to fare evasion. 

Racial disparities in transit policing has been long criticized. But concerns have been heightened since the Metropolitan Transportation Authority began to take a more aggressive stance on fare evasion, which caused the agency to lose $225 million last year

Data cited by the attorney general’s office reveals lingering disparities: From October 2017 to June 2019, nearly 90% of people arrested for fare evasion were black or Hispanic. The investigation comes months after black and Hispanic police officers provided sworn statements alleging that a superior encouraged them to target black and Hispanic for low-level offenses such as fare evasion. 

New York City has attempted to get the root of fare evasion by providing discounted MetroCards. But not only does the program have limited impact – just 130,000 of the city’s 800,000 low-income residents are expected to benefit – it doesn’t resolve the disparity in arrests. 

NYN Media reporter Kay Dervesh
Kay Dervishi
is a staff reporter at NYN Media.
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