Queens City Council Member Rory I. Lancman (D-Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, Electchester, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood, Parkway Village, Jamaica Hills, Jamaica) and legal counsel gathered at the R Train Stop on Warren Street and Broadway and Manhattan to announce a lawsuit being filed against the New York City Police Department.
The lawsuit is an attempt to get the NYPD to comply with legislation that requires them to release arrest and citation records at each subway station in the city.
There are 472 subway stations in New York City, but not all of the arrests and citations are distributed equally amongst these stations, Lancman said. They are targeting areas in minority and low-income communities.
After a report that was done by the Community Service Society, it was brought to light that black and Latino citizens are much more likely to be arrested for fare evasion. Lancman said that the data from the NYPD would only further confirm their findings.
“It’s cliché to ask what the government is hiding, but really, what is the government hiding?” he said.
The report finds that in 2016, young black men ages 16-36 represented about half of all fare evasion arrests, but only 13.1 percent of poor adults.
“I believe that once we look at this data it’s going to be impossible to justify the vast race discrepancy that exists,” he said.
In December 2017 the City Council unanimously passed the legislation that would require the NYPD to release quarterly reports concerning arrests at subway stations. So far, the NYPD has missed the first three deadlines, which were Jan. 30, April 30 and July 30.
“Nobody should be arrested, finger printed, get a criminal record for the rest of their lives and maybe even spend some time at Riker’s Island for jumping a turnstile,” he said.
Judith Whiting, the general counsel for the CSSNY, said the reports show that poverty is the bullseye of the police’s target.
“We found some very disturbing things,” she said.
She said the council never expected to have to be in litigation with the city and the police department, but it was the next necessary step in ensuring the data gets released to the public, which she and Lancman both agree is a right for the citizens of New York.
“The lawsuit that was filed today was filed out of frustration for the many attempts we’ve made to get the data,” she said.
In response, the NYPD said they were not withholding the data because they had something to hide, but because the data could present an issue of public safety.
“We’re working with the Council to make sure we’re doing this,” the police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, said at news conference in September, “We also want to make sure these figures can’t be used in a way to evade public safety.”
Lancman dismissed the idea of public safety being an actual concern in the issue, as it wasn’t brought up when the two parties were discussing the parameters of the legislation last year.
“The NYPD testified about the issue and worked with us on the specific language of the bill, and this wasn’t brought up,” he said.