Legal Aid Chief Attorney Seymour James: Davis Settlement Will Help Stop Illegal Arrests

Speaking on Eyewitness News, Seymour W. James, Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, said the Davis settlement "will stop the unlawful questioning, stopping, and arresting of public housing residents for merely being on the premises."



Eyewitness News This Morning
WABC (ABC) New York
January 10th, 2015  7-8 AM

Co-Anchor: And speaking of new rules, some new ones are also coming soon regarding how police can deal with residents in public housing. This comes as the de Blasio administration settles a court case challenging police tactics in public housing that some residents say amounted to harassment right in their own homes. Eyewitness News reporter Dave Evans has more.

Dave Evans, Reporter: In East New York at the Pink Houses, residents have complained for years of overly aggressive policing. Karen Caldwell says it’s often amounted to harassment, especially of young men questioned by police.

Karen Caldwell, Association President: They would stop them and ask them for their ID or, you know, ask them where they’re going, what they’re doing there. And a lot of times, they’re standing in front of the buildings, but they live in that building. 

Dave Evans: Plaintiffs sued the city in 2010, but now, Mayor de Blasio has settled, and  it’s police who will have to change. 

Seymour James, Legal Aid: What this settlement will do – it will stop the unlawful questioning, stopping, and arresting of public housing residents for merely being on the premises.

Dave Evans: Most of the stop occurred in stairways in what’s called vertical patrols, where police go floor to floor. On November 20th, in the Pink Houses, Akai Gurley, in a stairway, was shot and killed by a police officer. The mayor called it a horrible accident and it has angered many residents. They now hope this court decision might improve things. 

Karen Caldwell: I think that that would give the community and the police an opportunity to sort of work together.

Dave Evans: Residents say they still certainly like police and want them around, but just not so aggressive. 

Karen Caldwell: I need them to do their job, but I also want them to be mindful that everybody’s not doing a wrong thing. 

Dave Evans: This court settlement was in the works since this summer, but wasn’t signed off on until this week. Now it moves from the courtroom to actually retraining police in how they’ll interact in the future with residents in city projects. At police headquarters in lower Manhattan, Dave Evans, Channel 7 Eyewitness News. 

Rob Nelson: Thank you very much, Dave. So much going on with the NYPD – a lot of discussions, yeah.

Michelle Charlesworth, Co-Anchor: A lot going on, yeah.

Rob Nelson: Yeah, to say the least.

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