NYC Subway Manspreaders Profiled And Arrested

Two Latino men were arrested by NYPD officers for manspreading on the subway (sitting with their legs impolitely far apart), according to a report titled “That’s How They Get You” from the Police Reform Organizing Project. I thought that this story would be funny, based on the humorous comeuppance manspreaders have faced via, say, Men Taking Up Too Much Space On the Train, but it turns out that it’s part of a horrible intersection of quota policing and profiling.

The manspreaders, for example, were arrested at 12:11 AM. They could not possibly have been inconveniencing other passengers by making themselves comfortable. And this turns out to be the case for a whole lot of subway arrests, made mainly for insignificant infractions, like a passenger having his or her foot on a seat, or asking to be swiped through a turnstile, even if the person asked is willing to do it (it’s deemed “solicitation”). Most of the time, these infractions happen in the middle of the night, when it’s easy pickings on the train.

More often than not, unsurprisingly, the people arrested are Black or Latino, and more often than not, the cases result in no further jail time. A pattern of cops arresting people of color for minor infractions in which the person didn’t inconvenience or harm anyone else adds up to profiling, of course, and it’s turning totally innocent people doing totally innocent things into criminals and fugitives. The manspreaders, like many other subway arrestees, had priors on other minor charges – public urination and being in a park after closing – and had missed their court dates, which put them at risk of jail time.

Once a person comes into contact with the justice system, either on arrest or through jail or time served in prison, they’re more likely to come into the justice system again, and these subway arrests demonstrate that kind of recidivism at work. If the director of the Prison Reform Organizing Project is right on his hunch that all of this is in the service of quota policing, then we’re essentially allowing the cops to totally upend innocent people’s lives in order to make their quotas for arrests. And that’s not justice.

I’m all for being polite on the train, but I’m unclear on why impoliteness is punishable by arrest. Isn’t this the kind of social interaction we can negotiate without the help of the police? A policing culture that says, “Be polite – or else” is unacceptable, especially when they’re only really saying it to people of color. Ultimately this winds out into a whole spate of other problems, not least of all the echoes of a “white man’s burden” in the idea that the police feel the need to tell people of color how to behave. Bottom line, it’s ridiculous, and broken windows policing is broken itself.



[Image via Shutterstock]

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