Police Stops in Bronx Violated Constitution, Judge Rules
A federal judge blocked the New York City Police Department from making unlawful stops outside privately owned buildings in the Bronx, ruling the department’s “stop and frisk” practices violate the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan today ordered the NYPD to stop making so-called “trespass stops” outside buildings enrolled in the city’s Trespass Affidavit Program, or TAP, without reasonable suspicion that the person stopped is on the property illegally.
The ruling was in one of three federal court challenges to NYPD “stop and frisk” practices. It followed a hearing held by Scheindlin from Oct. 15 to Nov. 7 in a suit filed last year by a group of black and Latino residents.
“For those of us who do not fear being stopped as we approach or leave our own homes or those of our friends and families, it is difficult to believe that residents of one of our boroughs live under such a threat,” Scheindlin wrote in a 149-page opinion. “In light of the evidence presented at the hearing, however, I am compelled to conclude that this is the case.”
TAP, formerly called “Operation Clean Halls,” permits the police to patrol participating buildings. Scheindlin found that officers were violating the civil liberties of residents and visitors by stopping, frisking and questioning them without sufficient cause to believe they were trespassing.
“Today’s decision unnecessarily interferes with the department’s efforts to use all of the crime-fighting tools necessary to keep Clean Halls buildings safe and secure,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said today in a statement. The program is intended to provide extra security for apartment buildings whose landlords request it, he said.
Scheindlin said she will hold a hearing to determine whether she will also order the department to adopt a written policy for stopping people outside TAP buildings on suspicion of trespass, to impose stricter supervision of trespass stops and to order new training for officers.
Today’s ruling comes in what Scheindlin said is the most narrow of the three court challenges to stop-and-frisk policies in New York. A suit challenging all such police stops citywide is scheduled for trial March 11. Another seeks to end alleged rights violations in trespass stops in public housing.
“Today’s decision is a major step toward dismantling the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk regime,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said today in a statement. “Operation Clean Halls has placed New Yorkers, mostly black and Latino, under siege in their own homes in thousands of apartment buildings. This aggressive assault on people’s constitutional rights must be stopped.”
The case is Ligon v. City of New York, 12-cv-2274, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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