Tag Archives: policing

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Prof. Kafui Attoh on Structural Racism in Mass-Transit Policing

The protests over the past week and a half have laid bare many of the excesses of the police and called into increasing question what their role in our cities is and should be. In a recent Streetsblog post, SLU professor Kafui Attoh explained why the protests have in particular laid bare the structural racism in New York’s mass-transit policing.

Attoh reminds us that, before the pandemic, before the recent wave of mass protests, Gov. Cuomo and the MTA had decided to add hundreds of new transit police to the city’s subway system in order to combat fare evasion. The news was announced much to the dismay of activists, who noted that this would simply exacerbate existing inequalities and racial profiling — and would cost the city a fortune.

Now, here we are six months later, and, Attoh observes, one would think the conversation would have changed:

Today, the issues facing the MTA and New York City Transit appear more existential. After Cuomo’s March 20 “New York on PAUSE” declaration, daily transit ridership fell by 90 percent. By mid-April ridership on the subway had reached a historic low of 365,000 daily trips — down from 5.56 million trips a year before. Losses in fare revenue have been extensive. 

The MTA’s financial situation remains shaky despite the fact that the agency has received federal and state aid and new powers to borrow from its capital budget — and especially given the possibility of another outbreak. Beyond the hit to transit budgets, the human costs also have mounted. As of this week, more than 60 transit workers in the city — most of them bus drivers — have succumbed to COVID-19. Transit in the city is facing a new reality — one that has made a mockery of the old bugaboo of “fare evasion.”

And yet, the MTA intends to move forward with its pre-COVID plan:

In mid-April, Gothamist reported that, despite $8 billion in COVID related losses, the MTA still plans to plow ahead with its decision to hire 350 new MTA police officers. Having already hired 150 since January, the MTA will expand the force’s ranks by 150 in July and by another 200 in December.

As Attoh explains, this dynamic makes abundantly apparent what is motivating policymakers — and what we need instead:

The push for more MTA police — despite transit’s financial woes and the retreat of the issue of fare evasion — clarifies what was already clear to activists six months ago: The purpose of the policing fetish is simply the need to control the mobility of the economically and racially marginalized  — a population that will face the brunt of the coming austerity.

We must address these structural questions — and now, with hope, we will.

Read the full post at Streetsblog.

Photo by Runs With Scissors via flickr (cc-by-nc-nd)

Murphy Event: Black, Brown and Blue (10/21)

Join us!

Where: The Murphy Institute, 25 W. 43rd St., 18th Floor
When: Friday, October 21st, 6-8pm

REGISTER HERE

The ongoing killings of people of color too numerous to name, the killing of Police Officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas, and the occupations of the Fraternal Order of Police by BYP100 and the Movement for Black Lives Matter have escalated calls and action for systematic change. It is urgent that the Labor Movement and our communities confront the complex and interlocking dynamics of law enforcement, unionism, and racial justice.

The Murphy Institute aims to bring together academics, activists, students, and practitioners to pose crucial questions concerning the criminal justice system, and the labor movements’ place and responsibility within it. We will host a series of roundtables and discussions, opening with this October 21st forum and culminating with a two-day conference April 28th and 29th. These events are designed to wrestle with the fundamental questions of unionism and solidarity, race and class, with the ultimate goal of finding a real path toward more equitable criminal justice.

Speakers:

  • Carmen Berkeley, is a radical civil & labor rights activist, writer, and trainer who currently serves as the youngest Director for the Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Department at the AFL-CIO. Berkley’s passion training organizers and activists has allowed her to train with Midwest Academy and Wellstone Action, and to serve as a Co-Founder of Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, LLC.
  • Joo-Hyun Kang is the Executive Director of Communities United for Police Reform
  • Eugene O’Donnell, Professor at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He was an officer in the New York Police Department, a prosecutor with the district attorneys’ offices in Brooklyn and Queens, and a police academy instructor.
  • Dorian Warren, Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, an MSNBC Contributor, and Board Chair of the Center for Community Change. He is the former Host and Executive Producer of “Nerding Out” on MSNBC’s digital platform, shift.msnbc.com.
  • Moderated by Ed Ott, Distinguished Lecturer in Labor Studies at the Murphy Institute.  He has over 40 years of experience in the labor movement, most recently as Executive Director of the New York City Central Labor Council.

The forum is free but registration is required.