October 15, 2012 — At an unprecedented hearing starting this morning in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, civil rights advocates will seek a judicial order ending the NYPD’s unconstitutional practice of stopping innocent people on suspicion of trespassing in public areas outside of thousands of private apartment buildings in the Bronx.
The hearing is part of a federal class-action lawsuit filed in March by the New York Civil Liberties Union, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, The Bronx Defenders and the law firm of Shearman & Sterling LLP challenging the NYPD’s enforcement of Operation Clean Halls – a citywide program within the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk regime that allows police officers to patrol in and around certain private apartment buildings.
NOTE to press: Plaintiffs’ attorneys will hold a media availability on the courthouse steps at 5 p.m. today following the day’s testimony.
“This hearing is an important opportunity to put an end to an aspect of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program that has plagued New Yorkers of color for far too long,” said NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Alexis Karteron, lead counsel on the case. “Our case will demonstrate that police officers are unlawfully stopping and arresting people on suspicion of trespassing simply because they happen to be in public areas outside of Clean Halls Buildings.”
The lawsuit, Ligon v. City of New York, was filed on behalf of residents of buildings enrolled in Operation Clean Halls and individuals who were unlawfully stopped and arrested on trespassing charges through the program. The lawsuit argues that police officers unlawfully stop, question, frisk, and even arrest, people on suspicion of trespass without justification and usually because those individuals, typically residents or their guests, are in or near buildings enrolled in the program.
“A wrongful trespassing arrest is more than an inconvenience; it can cost innocent people their jobs, their homes, and even the possibility of citizenship,” said McGregor Smyth of The Bronx Defenders. “The Bronx District Attorney’s office has repeatedly notified the NYPD that its officers have illegally arrested people on trespassing charges just for being near a building enrolled in Clean Halls. It’s time to end this illegal and abusive dragnet once and for all.”
The plaintiffs are seeking a preliminary injunction focusing on a particular subset of these stops: the baseless stopping of people on suspicion of trespassing in public areas, such as sidewalks and courtyards, near Clean Halls buildings.
"Latino and black youths are the targets of these unlawful stops," said Roberto Concepcion, Jr. of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. "For many youth of color, their first encounter with law enforcement is getting falsely arrested for trespass just outside their own apartment building. That is happening every day outside Clean Halls buildings. The NYPD encourages this illegal practice, but today we will hold them accountable for it in court."
During the hearing, which should last several days, plaintiffs’ attorneys will call a series of witnesses, beginning with Jeffrey Fagan, a professor of law and public health at Columbia University who has performed in-depth analysis of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk data. Other witnesses will include a representative of the Bronx District Attorney’s office, which has notified the NYPD of unjustified trespass arrests, and several individuals who have been unlawfully stopped and arrested for trespassing outside Clean Halls buildings.
First-ever court hearing on NYPD’s unconstitutional practice of stopping and arresting innocent people on suspicion of trespassing in public areas outside of residential buildings enrolled in Operation Clean Halls
Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse, 500 Pearl St., Courtroom 15C, in Manhattan. The hearing is before U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin.
Monday, Oct. 15; Hearing: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Press availability: 5 p.m.