A video shared on social media of New York City police officers pinning a homeless woman to the ground and handcuffing her has sparked outcry.
The footage, which appears to be the latest incident between civilians and NYPD officers to attract considerable social media attention, was posted by user Narvin Singh around 11:30 a.m. on November 22. It showed two officers pinning a woman near the turnstiles in Queens’ Jamaica Center subway station. The woman can be seen struggling to free herself, until the officers turn her over and handcuff her.
In the video, the person filming could be heard saying that they were recording the incident because it was “wrong.” A woman was also heard in the footage saying that the homeless woman, who the New York Post reported was living in the station, was being taken to the hospital for mental health treatment. Some mental health professionals, including the woman, appeared to be at the scene.
“Putting her on the ground is not helping her!” the person recording the video exclaimed. “They can have someone come and talk to her! They don’t need to [expletive] put her on the ground!…This is not something cops need to deal with! This is something maybe mental health professionals need to deal with!”
Warning: footage contains expletives.
According to the New York Post, the police were trying to bring the woman to the hospital for “evaluation” in accordance with a New York State law that permits mental health professionals to forcefully take someone to the hospital if they appear to be mentally ill.
Freddi Goldstein, press secretary at the New York City mayor’s office, spoke to Gothamist about the incident. She explained the outrage was sparked by a “misunderstanding,” and that the police method seen in the video is only used “when someone is a danger to themselves or to others.”
“This was not an arrest, there’s no charge, there’s no crime,” Goldstein told Gothamist. “This woman was not brought to a precinct, she was brought to a nearby hospital for the exact kind of care that people are advocating she receive.”
One person at the scene of the incident was Dr. Mitchell Katz, the president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, a public health care system. In a tweet Friday, Katz wrote that the woman in the video was not charged with a crime, and provided an explanation as to why the woman may have been apprehended as she was in the video.
“Some people who are suffering from mental illness, and due to their mental illness, do not always wish to seek care, even when they are a danger to themselves or others,” Katz said.
“Ideally, people would voluntarily accept care,” he continued, “but often enough this does not occur. That doesn’t mean that our responsibility ends to just leave people uncared for. I was present today because I feel that it is our obligation to do everything we can to get people to accept care.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio also weighed in about the incident by sharing Katz’s statement in a tweet.
These videos are painful for anyone to watch â€” especially if you have a loved one with mental illness who has refused medical care.
We have a moral obligation to help people get the care they need. Itâ€™s not easy â€” but itâ€™s the right thing to do. https://t.co/nZMdsTzE94
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) November 22, 2019
The incident, as Gothamist reported, comes amid New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initiative to hire 500 new officers to better “crack down” on homelessness and other issues. Recently, New York police officers were caught on video handcuffing a churro vendor.