On January 7, 2015, a preliminary settlement agreement has was reached to end the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) improper and unlawful enforcement of criminal trespass laws in public housing. This settlement will resolve Davis et al. v. City of New York et al., 10 Civ. 0699, a five-year-old federal class-action lawsuit brought by individual residents and guests of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residences on behalf of a plaintiff class that challenged the NYPD’s unlawful policy and practice of routinely stopping and arresting NYCHA residents and guests without reasonable suspicion or probable cause of illegal conduct in a racially discriminatory manner.
The settlement is subject to final approval by Judge Shira Scheindlin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, after class members have had an opportunity to voice their opinions about its terms. Upon final court approval, the Davis case will become part of the court monitoring process that was ordered in the lawsuit that successfully challenged the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policies (Floyd v. City of New York). Both matters will be overseen by the court-appointed monitor, and former NYC Corporation Counsel, Peter Zimroth. Community stakeholders, including public housing residents, will have input in the structuring of these reforms through a process that will be presided over by retired State Appellate Division Justice Ariel Belen. The Davis plaintiffs are represented by The Legal Aid Society, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.
The terms of the settlement explicitly state that “NYCHA residents and their authorized visitors have the same legal rights as the residents and authorized visitors of any other residential building in New York City, and deserve the utmost courtesy and respect.” The settlement revises the NYPD Patrol Guide on vertical (or interior) patrols in NYC public housing and the related NYPD training materials regarding vertical patrols and enforcement of NYCHA rules, imposes a documentation requirement for all trespass arrests in NYC public housing, and modifies certain NYCHA rules concerning residents’ cooperation with police and the prohibited activity of “lingering.”