New York Times Calls On City To Settle Lawsuits Involving Unlawful Stops, Frisks And Arrests By Police
TUESDAY, APRIL 02, 2013

In an editorial today, The New York Times called on the City to settle three lawsuits involving illegal actions by the police in stopping, frisking and arresting New Yorkers. The editorial focused mainly on the Davis case, brought by The Legal Aid Society and the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) with pro bono counsel at Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP. The Davis case challenges the NYPD's practice of stopping and arresting New York Housing Authority residents and their guests in NYCHA housing developments on trespass charges. Federal District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled last week that the case can proceed to a jury trial after rejecting almost all of the City's objections to the plaintiff's claims. Judge Scheindlin and The New York Times cited the testimony by a representative of a public housing resident leadership group, who compared life in the public housing projects under stop-and-frisk to a “penal colony” where law-abiding parents are set upon by the police while going to the store to get milk and cookies for their children.




The New York Times
Public Housing as a ‘Penal Colony’
April 2, 2013
By the Times Editorial Board

New York City’s constitutionally suspect stop-and-frisk program is rightly being hammered in federal courts. Earlier this year, the court ruled in the case of Ligon v. City of New York that the city had violated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure by illegally stopping people outside of private buildings in the Bronx. In the case of Floyd v. City of New York, which is currently being heard in Federal District Court in Manhattan, the plaintiffs charge the city with illegally stopping and frisking citizens based on race. A third lawsuit, Davis v. City of New York, challenges the legality of the program in the city’s public housing projects, where residents and visitors say they were illegally stopped or arrested. In a ruling in the Davis case just last week, Judge Shira Scheindlin rejected most of the city’s challenges to the plaintiff’s claims, clearing the way for the case to proceed to trial.

In allowing the case to go forward, the judge noted that jurors might reasonably reach several troubling conclusions about the case. They could decide that the police had adopted unconstitutional policies leading to widespread stops and arrests for trespassing; that the practice resulted from “inadequate training and supervision regarding constitutional standards, and inadequate discipline in responses to violation of those standards”; that the police treat similar crime levels more aggressively when they occur in public housing developments that have a large proportion of African-Americans.

Judge Scheindlin agreed that it was necessary to provide security for public housing developments. But the police’s aggressive stop-and-frisk tactics, she suggested, had taken an emotional toll on many innocent tenants.

She cited the testimony of Reginald Bowman, the president of a public housing resident leadership group, who compared life in the public housing projects under stop-and-frisk to a “penal colony” where law-abiding parents are set upon by the police while going to the store to get milk and cookies for their children.

Instead of belittling the claims of the plaintiffs, the city needs to settle these suits and ensure that police policies adhere to Fourth Amendment guarantees of freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.