NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NYPD is responding to two viral videos showing officers handcuffing a woman for selling food inside a Brooklyn subway station.
Some local politicians have called the officers’ actions “horrible policy,” but police have a different story, CBS2’s Marc Liverman reported Sunday.
The incident in question happened Friday inside the Broadway Junction subway station in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
A Twitter video that has more than 1 million views shows three uniformed officers and one in plain clothes surrounding a woman selling churros.
After more than a minute of the officers speaking with the woman, a second Twitter video shows the officers leading her away in cuffs.
At one point the person filming the incident asks, “Can you just, like, let her keep her stuff?” An officer responds, “No ma’am.”
It’s not clear what happened before the video was shot. The officers’ actions are now generating huge backlash.
“You know, I think it’s ridiculous. She’s not harming anyone. She’s just selling them. You know, everybody comes, they take the train, there’s people sometimes that skip breakfast or whatever, wanted a little snack, they buy it off her and that’s it. Just an honest living. An honest living,” one woman said.
“I just don’t think this is keeping New Yorkers safe,” City Councilman Stephen Levin told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner. “It’s just criminalizing in effect someone trying to make a living and put food on the table.”
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams tweeted, “There was a doorway right there, and a woman selling churros who could’ve been persuaded to just leave [without] a fine or arrest.”
But not everyone feels the officers were in the wrong.
“The standard protocol when you have a non-compliant individual is to take that person into custody,” former NYPD Lt. Darrin Porcher said. “By handcuffing the individual it diffuses the situation.”
Chief of Transit Edward Delatorre tweeted Sunday night, “Our officers have been responding to number of recent complaints of violations at this station, including the unlawful and unlicensed sale of food and other products.”
Some subway riders agreed with the officers’ actions.
“Come on, you gotta leave sooner or later. You’re violating the law like that,” one man said.
“You can only turn your eyes so many times and then you have to do something,” said John Bennett of Bed-Stuy.
The NYPD eventually released a statement explaining that the woman is an unlicensed vendor who was told that she would be issued a summons and her property would be taken away if she didn’t comply, adding, “This individual has been issued 10 summonses in the last five months for unlicensed vending at the same station. The Command has received numerous complaints regarding unlicensed vendors at Broadway Junction due to health concerns and individuals interfering with pedestrian flow.”
Regarding the vendor our officers approached at the Broadway Junction station: She was not arrested, she received a summons- She’s received 10 summonses in the past 6 months and both English & Spanish speaking officers spoke with her…
— NYPD Transit (@NYPDTransit) November 10, 2019
Police said the woman refused to cooperate and was briefly handcuffed before being released. They said her property was vouchered as evidence and the woman was released within minutes.