NYPD’s Days of Housing Watch May Be Numbered

     MANHATTAN (CN) – New York City police have more work to do if they want to keep patrolling privately owned buildings at the request of landlords, a federal judge ruled.
     In March, black and Latino families from the Bronx led by Jaenon Ligon filed a class action lawsuit challenging Operation Clean Halls, an NYPD program that allegedly put residents “under siege” in defiance of their constitutional rights.
     Filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the complaint relates tales of a 17-year-old detained after buying ketchup for his mother; a woman’s call to 911 after her boyfriend, a police sergeant, was detained for bringing Chinese takeout into her building; and a high school junior arrested for “trespassing” in his own home.
     The NYPD, which has likened the program as a doorman for the poor man, asked U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin not to entertain banning it.
     But the judge said Tuesday that the complaint’s “grave allegations” may require her to take action.
     “Plaintiffs believe that they are at risk of repeatedly being stopped in the absence of reasonable suspicion and being arrested in the absence of probable cause; that is, they are at risk of suffering a violation of their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure,” the order states.
     Judge Scheindlin also presides over Floyd v. City of New York, another class action that seeks to end racial disparities in stop-and-frisk policing.
     City lawyers have claimed that an injunction against Clean Halls could overlap with the outcome of that case, but the judge pointed out that the 4-year-old Floyd case might be “indefinitely postponed” because of a pending appeal.
     Families fighting Clean Halls should not have to wait for appellate resolution in Floyd to get their own relief, Scheindlin added.
     “If their allegations are true, plaintiffs should not be forced to endure years of continued indignity while this litigation is effectively stayed pending the outcome in Floyd,” she wrote. “And if the allegations are not proven, then the NYPD will be vindicated by a judicial system that permits the city – and all litigants – a full and fair hearing.
     “If defendants wish to minimize duplication, they may agree to preliminary injunctive relief with the plaintiffs in Ligon. Alternatively, they are free to withdraw their appeal of the class certification decision and permit a trial in Floyd without delay. But the city cannot have it both ways. Having pursued an interlocutory appeal of the Floyd class certification decision, the city may not now prevent other litigants from even requesting that the court use its equitable power to protect their fundamental rights.”
     Such an injunction could be citywide or limited to the Bronx, she added.

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