Two subway cops forcibly restrained a man and booted him from a West Village subway station in an incident caught on camera early Monday morning, just days after Mayor Eric Adams vowed to coordinate closer with outreach workers in the transit system.
An online video shows the cops talking to the man as he sits on the platform stairs at the Eighth Avenue station of the L Line just before 1 a.m. on Jan. 10, when he starts shouting “No,” and the police pull him to the ground and restrain him.
“I was pretty shocked and upset about the whole situation,” said Brooklynite Karim Walker, who captured the commotion on cellphone.
An NYPD spokesman said in a statement that the officers responded to a 911 call about an unconscious man on the L train and that he was disoriented when they took him off the subway car.
The man sat down on the steps while they were trying to bring him to an ambulance outside the station, and they negotiated with him for about 10 minutes before he tried to kick, punch, and bite the officers, according to Sergeant Edward Riley.
The cops pulled him to the ground and handcuffed him as he flailed and screamed, before bringing him to Beth Israel Hospital for an evaluation. Police did not charge him with a crime, according to the Department rep.
The incident — which City Limits first reported — comes just four days after Mayor Eric Adams held a joint press conference with Governor Kathy Hochul and transit leaders about homeless people on the subways and crime, vowing to make police an “omnipresence” in the city’s sprawling transit system.
He instructed his NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell to deploy more cops from the city’s 77 police precincts to patrol the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 472 subway stations in addition to the thousands of current Transit Bureau cops, even though crime in the subways makes up less than 2% of the citywide figures.
Police are supposed to contact trained social workers to respond to people experiencing homelessness or mental health issues on the subways, “unless there is some criminal activity taking place that needs immediate attention,” Adams said.
At the same press event, Hochul announced a plan to launch a state-funded team of social workers and medical professionals in the coming months.
Adams’s office has not yet responded to a request for comment on Monday’s incident.
The Monday morning dustup reminded Walker of his own experience of being homeless for more than a year before he got an apartment in East New York at the end of 2020.
During that time, in August 2019, he recalled riding an E train when police handcuffed him and detained him at a cell in Midtown, and he said cops should not be interacting with the unhoused.
“Police have no business being front and center with homeless outreach, because that’s not their job,” said Walker, who now works with the street homeless advocacy group Human.nyc. “Let the outreach workers, who are trained in this sort of thing, to do this sort of thing, because we could easily have something like this happen over and over and over again.”
It is not clear whether the distraught man in Walker’s video is homeless or suffered from mental illness, but an advocate said that these violent encounters with police will continue to erode trust between New York’s vulnerable and social workers.
“If this gentleman is back on the subways, after whatever medical events that took place, the next time either a police officer or even an outreach worker approaches this person, he will have the reminder of this prior interaction,” said Jacquelyn Simone of the organization Coalition for the Homeless.