Video of Man Tasered on Subway Raises Questions About Policing

A video of cops swarming a subway rider and capturing him with a Taser this month has revived a contentious debate about policing on New York’s public transit system, even because the individual more likely to lead the town has made subway security a prime precedence.

The clip, and the response to it, reveals the challenges Eric Adams, the doubtless subsequent mayor, and his Police Department might confront as they attempt to make a recovering metropolis welcoming to vacationers and the subway as secure as doable — whereas decreasing the heavy-handed enforcement of low-level offenses, which disproportionately impacts Black and Latino New Yorkers. The metropolis’s present mayor, Bill de Blasio, stated that he was “concerned” by the video and that the officers had not adopted their coaching.

The episode proven on the video, which was filmed by a bystander and went viral this week, started at round 6 p.m. on July 6, after David Crowell, a 29-year-old Black man, entered the subway station at 116th Street and Lenox Avenue. The police stated that Mr. Crowell had paid his personal fare, however that he had helped one other rider keep away from paying.

He was shortly met with an enormous show of pressure, as officers streamed onto a subway automobile to confront him, surrounded him and shot him with a Taser.

Late Wednesday evening, the police, dealing with criticism over the video, launched footage from a body-worn digital camera that reveals Mr. Crowell taunting and threatening an officer, utilizing anti-police epithets.

To critics of the police, the bystander video raised sharp questions concerning the knowledge of policing fare evasion and different low-level offenses on the subway, and whether or not it was doable to extend the presence of officers with out rising situations of police violence. To others, the physique digital camera video underscored how efforts to implement fare legal guidelines can escalate into confrontations.

Mr. Crowell was charged with resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration and menacing, in addition to second-degree harassment, officers stated. None of the costs contain fare evasion.

A lawyer for Mr. Crowell, Bethany Bonsu, referred to as the costs “absurd.” The man whom Mr. Crowell let by means of the gate was his cousin and Mr. Crowell had paid his fare, too, after letting him by means of, she stated.

Mr. Crowell stated in an interview that he didn’t anticipate to be shot with the Taser, however he was not shocked that it occurred.

“I know a lot of people are looking at this situation like, ‘Oh, my God, it’s police brutality,’ but this is probably my 15th time being violated by the police and this is my first time getting some light put on the situation,” he stated, including that he deliberate to take authorized motion in opposition to the officers concerned.

Mr. Crowell stated that when he seems to be threatening a police officer with out provocation on the body-camera footage, the officer was already holding a Taser.

“The goal is to de-escalate,” Mr. de Blasio stated at a information convention on Thursday when requested concerning the incident. “Clearly, here, we did not end up with a de-escalated situation so this needs to be looked at carefully to see what can be done differently going forward.”

In a press release on Thursday, Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents the officers, defended the ways of those that arrested Mr. Crowell.

“This kind of lawless behavior — and worse — is exactly what brought those police officers to that subway platform,” Mr. Lynch stated. “New Yorkers expect and deserve a safe and orderly transit system.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the subway, declined to remark and referred inquiries to the Police Department.

The enforcement of fare evasion has a protracted and controversial historical past in New York. It was among the many petty crimes that William J. Bratton, first because the transit police chief and later as Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s police commissioner, focused as half of a “broken windows” technique for decreasing crime total by cracking down on minor offenses. (Mr. Bratton was additionally police commissioner underneath Mr. de Blasio.)

Richard M. Aborn, the president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, a nonprofit group that works to enhance felony justice practices, stated that pursuing fare-beaters is supposed to convey the message that residents could not brazenly flout the legislation.

“The notion is that society has the right to pass certain restrictions that everyone has to comply with — much like paying taxes or stopping at streetlights — and that paying a subway fare is one of those requirements,” he stated.

Available information reveals that fare-evasion arrests goal Black and Hispanic males disproportionately. In 2017, the Manhattan district legal professional, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., stated he would cease pursuing felony instances in opposition to the overwhelming majority of those that have been arrested for the offense, and he later stated that doing so helped his workplace to keep away from making poverty against the law.

Attention on the difficulty was renewed in 2019 when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo sought to rent a further 500 M.T.A. officers to patrol the subway. Among different issues, Mr. Cuomo stated, the officers would assist combat fare evasion, which the transportation authority estimated final January value $300 million a yr.

The proposal to extend the police presence within the transit system was met with protests, significantly after two movies that confirmed officers aggressively arresting younger Black males unfold broadly on-line.

Demonstrators poured right into a subway station in November 2019 to protest police brutality, with some of them smashing tools, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others condemned the enforcement of fare evasion for singling out poor individuals.

Mr. Adams, talking then in his position as Brooklyn borough president, demanded that an officer who was captured on one of the movies lobbing a punch at a civilian be positioned on modified task.

“He went beyond the call of duty,” Mr. Adams stated on the time. “You’re not in a boxing match.”

The debate over the police’s presence within the subway receded through the pandemic amid a steep falloff in ridership, as did total considerations concerning the system’s security. But with the town starting to reopen, individuals returning to the subway and a mayoral marketing campaign underway, the problems gained contemporary consideration this yr.

Violent incidents within the first half of 2021 rattled riders and led some mayoral candidates, together with Mr. Adams, to name for extra police to be deployed to the system, which carried about 5.5 million individuals on the common weekday earlier than the pandemic started and now carries about 2.5 million.

Mr. Adams, a former police captain who’s closely favored to defeat his Republican opponent, Curtis Sliwa, within the basic election this fall, will quickly be anticipated to place his marketing campaign messages to work.

He gained floor within the Democratic major by means of a constant focus on public security, which he stated his supporters have been deeply involved about. He referred to as for a whole bunch extra officers to be deployed to the subway, in distinction with some of his rivals. One, Maya Wiley, stated that extra social service employees for individuals with psychological sickness ought to as an alternative be dispatched to the subway.

But Mr. Adams additionally portrayed himself as a reformer who had centered on police misconduct for many years. “I don’t hate police departments — I hate abusive policing,” he informed The New York Times through the marketing campaign.

Asked concerning the bystander video of Mr. Crowell’s arrest, a spokesman for Mr. Adams, Evan Thies, didn’t remark on it particularly.

“Eric believes we need more officers in the subways to deal with very serious safety concerns,” Mr. Thies stated, “but that they also must be better spread out with more training in de-escalation so that New Yorkers get the safety they need as well as the justice they deserve.”

In an interview, Ms. Wiley stated Mr. Crowell’s arrest confirmed that “while we do need to grapple with public safety and how we deploy police officers effectively, that more police doesn’t lead to public safety.”

“This just has nothing to do with public safety,” she stated. “Not a thing.”

Anthony Beckford, an activist and former City Council candidate who posted the video on-line Wednesday, stated in an interview that Mr. Adams ought to “sit down with advocates and get a gist of what’s really going on.”

“The police need to be removed from dealing with cases like this,” stated Mr. Beckford, who was despatched the video by an individual he didn’t determine. “If that is your response to people who can’t afford the fare, that is a problem.”

David R. Jones, a transportation authority board member and the president of the Community Service Society, a nonprofit group that advocates for poor New Yorkers, stated that in concept he didn’t oppose the police stopping individuals who didn’t pay the subway fare, giving them tickets and arresting them if want be.

The drawback, he stated, was that such stops weren’t carried out equitably.

“The people who are stopped and arrested — and this seems to continue to this day — are 93 percent Black and brown,” he stated. “I want a system that doesn’t hemorrhage money in terms of fare evasion but I also want a system that doesn’t lead to confrontations that are totally unnecessary.”