Arrested For Manspreading? ‘Broken Windows’ NYPD Policy Behind Recent Arrests, PROP Says

A report from a police watchdog group in New York said two men recently arrested for “manspreading” is an outrageous pattern by NYPD that’s unfairly targeting minorities. The subway arrests for men spreading their legs on public transportation is said to be yet another layer of the “Broken Windows” policing policy that has many behind bars from rampant racial profiling, citing a Canada Journal news report.

The Huffington Post defines the annoying practice that’s taken on many memes as of late.

“Manspreading — the act of a someone, usually a man, taking up two subway seats by spreading his legs — has rankled many train passengers for years.”

The etiquette-less practice has sounded so many alarms that social media reprisals against it caught the attention of officials in the Big Apple. In response to growing sentiment against men spreading their legs in subway cars, New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) posted PSAs on the trains.

The anti-manspreading messages warn of sanctions — usually in the form of summons — should violations occur. Getting arrested for it is another thing altogether. However, Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP) Director Bob Gangi suggests NYPD officers are using it as a loophole to make low-level arrests — similar to stopping a motorist for a broken taillight only to investigate them for other crimes or warrants.

Gangi points to three recent arrests: one for manspreading on a subway car, the other two involving manspreading as probable cause to detain them. Subsequent criminal checks unveiled warrants for public urination and trespassing in a park after dark.

“It’s a classic pattern. Somebody gets a summons for a low-level thing, they don’t show up in court, the warrant is out… A cop stops you a second time, even if for another low-level thing, and it’s the policy of the department to arrest you.”

On the person arrested for manspreading, the judge dismissed the case because they doubted anyone was inconvenienced at 12:11 a.m. The group says that this ongoing targeted behavior disproportionately impacts people of color, namely Latino and African Americans in New York.

Part of what PROP does is collect data on the numbers and types of arrests in the city. One such study revealed that nearly 10 percent of New Yorkers have outstanding warrants in the criminal justice system. Additionally, of the over seven million arrests made between 2001 and 2013, 81 percent were minority people of color. In 2013 alone, of the 227,378 misdemeanor arrests made, a whopping 91 percent involved Blacks and Hispanics. Manspreading arrests were part of the mix.

In a bit of irony, and in wake of people being arrested for manspreading offenses, New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who spearheaded the aggressive style of policing in 1994, recently had a change of heart. Bratton and Mayor de Blasio are considering ways to provide amnesty for those with outstanding low-level summons in an effort to lessen the backlog. But will the spreading of men come to an end? The short answer from many subway travelers: not likely.

[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]