Underground Harmonies: Music and Politics in the Subways of New York

By Susie J. Tanenbaum | Go to book overview

7
Walking the Beat: Transit Police

The New York City Transit Police Department represents the TA on the "front lines." Transit police officers are responsible for enforcing TA regulations, including the rules on "non-transit use of transit facilities," such as the ban on amplifiers on subway platforms. And yet the enforcement of these rules often bears minimal relation to what is actually stated in the regulatory code. Some officers invent broad restrictions that delegitimate all freelancers. Some issue summonses based on dubious discretionary decisions. Conversely, some choose not to enforce the rules, and they allow amplified musicians to stay on the platforms.

What accounts for this uneven application? To understand the ideology that frames enforcement, I begin this chapter with a look at the reorganization of the Transit Police Department, which was undertaken in 1990, and at the patrol strategy that accompanied it. I then examine the officers' actual enforcement practices with respect to subway music, and I conclude with a consideration of the complex ways in which officers and musicians affect one another's status in the informal social network of the subways.

The information in this chapter is drawn primarily from interviews I conducted with Lieutenant Eugene J. Roach and Inspector Ronald R. Rowland in the Office of the Chief of Transit Police; with Lieutenant Jeffrey McGunnigle, who at the time of the interview was an executive officer in Queens District 20 (he has since been promoted to the de

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