Johnson caught in a ‘broken window’ on C train

Police Commissioner Bratton said Corey Johnson, above, and police have “two different stories” of the incident.  File photo
Police Commissioner Bratton said Corey Johnson, above, and police have “two different stories” of the incident. File photo

BY ANDY HUMM  |  Openly gay City Councilmember Corey Johnson, who represents the Village and Chelsea, was given a ticket on Wed., March 25, for walking between subway cars –– an infraction whether the train is moving or not.

Johnson reportedly had been walking between multiple cars on an uptown C train between the W. 14th and 23rd St. stations in order to get nearer to the Chelsea station’s exit.

The councilmember paid his $75 ticket and had nothing but praise for the police after the incident. But the story ended up in the tabloids when police sources leaked it, characterizing the encounter as an important person trying to get out of a ticket.

The Daily News broke the story, putting three reporters on it, citing an unnamed “police source,” who said of Johnson, “He was making a big deal about it. He was saying this is what’s wrong with ‘broken windows.’ He identified himself. He pulled out his cell and started making calls.”

The Associated Press wrote that Police Commissioner Bill Bratton “said Mr. Johnson…made a complaint about ‘what he thought was inappropriate behavior…on the part of several police officers’ ” and that there would be an investigation.

DNAInfo.com reported that, during the arrest, Johnson “tried to call N.Y.P.D. Commissioner Bill Bratton or Chief of Department James O’Neill.” But the next day, speaking at One Police Plaza, the commissioner stated, “It’s not something that I or Chief O’Neill would have interfered with. The officers stopped him for something that he readily admits did occur. There’s no issue around that.”

Johnson sounds as if he wants to put the incident behind him.

“The councilmember has the utmost respect for the men and women of the N.Y.P.D. and looks forward to a continued partnership with them,” Erik Bottcher, his chief of staff, wrote in a statement.

Bratton also told DNAInfo.com, “There are two different stories. The councilmember’s and the versions presented by our six police officers.”

According to the online news site, the commissioner said the issue would be settled by the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

However, for his part, Johnson has never said he planned to take the matter to the C.C.R.B., and a source close to him told Gay City News — a sister paper of The Villager and East Villager — that Johnson has not and will not do so.

Yet, the councilmember has declined to respond to specific questions about Bratton’s assertions and is not providing his version of the incident, leaving unanswered the characterization by police sources that Johnson tried to pull rank.

Meanwhile, Robert Gangi, director of the Police Reform Organizing Project, said it was deeply troubling that six officers were needed to ticket a commuter for a minor infraction.

“So many police resources are focused on sanctioning people –– usually people of color –– who engage in innocuous activity that many people do not consider dangerous,” Gangi said. “Do we need police officers with badges and guns ticketing people? Why not M.T.A. personnel?”

Gangi’s group was a major force behind curtailing the abuse of “stop and frisk” and is now focused on ending the “broken windows” policing that results in tickets and, in some cases, arrests for minor infractions. The policy’s impact falls disproportionately on youth of color, Gangi and advocates point out.

Johnson has been a critic of “broken windows” policing and a champion of police reform.

Bratton challenges the notion that subway car-hopping ticketing is driven by quotas, citing a recent death of someone falling onto the tracks when moving between cars as justification for strict enforcement.

Correction: The original version of this article mistakenly identified the Police Reform Organizing Project as a part of the Urban Justice Center, with which it is no longer affiliated.