New York police stop-and-frisk program curbed by judge
BY LARRY NEUMEISTER Associated Press
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
1/09/13 at 4:54 AM
NEW YORK - The New York City Police Department likely turned a blind eye to violations of the constitutional rights of thousands of individuals detained at private residential buildings in the Bronx in a stop-and-frisk program that's under assault in the courts, a federal judge said Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin said the department's "Operation Clean Halls" program - aimed at preventing illegal activity at buildings in high-crime areas - had apparently stopped people who were merely entering or exiting buildings and not acting suspicious.
Officers can continue to make stops under the program, and Scheindlin ordered the department to develop and adopt a written policy describing limited circumstances when a person on a suspicion of trespass can be stopped.
She also ordered the department to revise its training materials and programs to conform with the law, though she suspended the effect of these orders until the city can challenge them legally in coming weeks.
Scheindlin said the plaintiffs who presented evidence at a fall hearing had demonstrated a clear likelihood of proving the city had shown deliberate indifference toward a widespread practice of unconstitutional trespass stops by police outside the buildings.
"While it may be difficult to say where, precisely, to draw the line between constitutional and unconstitutional police encounters, such a line exists, and the NYPD has systematically crossed it when making trespass stops" outside Bronx buildings, she said.
Scheindlin said she was not ordering the abolition or even a reduction of the program because it appears to be a valuable way to use police resources to enhance security in private buildings.
But Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the ruling "unnecessarily interferes with the department's efforts to use all of the crime-fighting tools necessary to keep Clean Halls buildings safe and secure."
He noted that landlords had requested extra police protection, and he compared it to Manhattan doormen "who routinely challenge visitors to their apartment buildings."
"Through 'Clean Halls,' the police have worked to provide a modicum of safety for less prosperous tenants," Kelly said.
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, called the ruling "a major step toward dismantling the NYPD's stop-and-frisk regime."
She said Operation Clean Halls "has placed New Yorkers, mostly black and Latinos, under siege in their own homes in thousands of apartment buildings."
Original Print Headline: Judge tells NYPD to curb stop-and-frisk program