MANHATTAN (CN) - The New York City Police Department has systematically crossed the line in patrolling private buildings in the Bronx, a federal judge ruled.
"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," U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin wrote. "In light of the evidence presented at the hearing, however, I am compelled to conclude that this is the case."
"As a result, plaintiffs are entitled to a preliminary injunction. However, with one exception, I am not yet ordering relief pending a further hearing on the appropriate scope of such relief," she added.
The 157-page decision granting an injunction comes in the most narrow of three cases challenging aspects of the NYPD stop-and-frisk program.
Jaenean Ligon leads the class in this case, made up of Latino and black New Yorkers, fighting police stops on suspicion of trespass outside of certain privately owned buildings in the Bronx.
Police can make stops in private buildings that are enrolled in the Trespass Affidavit Program, which was formerly known in the Bronx as Operation Clean Halls.
The second class action, Floyd v. City of New York, broadly addresses racial disparities in stops. A third class action, Davis v. City of New York, targets "vertical patrols" in public housing complexes. Scheindlin presides over all three cases.
Ligon's is represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Bronx Defenders, the law firm of Shearman & Sterling, and LatinoJustice PRLDEF, which was once short for Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Scheindlin credited testimony from hearings this fall, which included plaintiffs relating their personal experiences with the Clean Halls program.
Ligon, the lead plaintiff, said that police had detained her 17-year-old son, J.G., after she sent him out for ketchup in August 2011. She said she was "terrified that J.G. was injured or dead" when an officer buzzed her intercom to have her identify him downstairs.
When she saw her son surrounded by officers, she said she "collapsed and began weeping."
J.G.'s run-in was one of nine that Scheindlin recounted in her ruling.
She noted the testimony reveals "striking similarities among plaintiffs' stops."
"A person approaches or exits a Clean Halls building in the Bronx; the police suddenly materialize, stop the person, demand identification, and question the person about where he or she is coming from and what he or she is doing; attempts at explanation are met with hostility; especially if the person is a young black man, he is frisked, which often involves an invasive search of his pockets; in some cases the officers then detain the person in a police van in order to carry out an extended interrogation about the person's knowledge of drugs and weapons; and in some cases the stop escalates into an arrest for trespass, with all of the indignities, inconveniences, and serious risks that follow from an arrest even when the charges are quickly dropped," the decision states.