Published On: Fri, Mar 30th, 2012

New York Police Dept. Sued Over Stops in Private Buildings

Imagine you, or a guest of yours, walks inside or near your place of residence and is stopped, questioned and arrested for criminal-trespass by a New York City Police officer, who has been given permission by your landlord to enter the building.   That is the experience for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.  And on behalf of 13 plaintiffs, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit claiming that “residents and their guests are subject to arbitrary enforcement practices.”

The New York Times Reports:

Police officers routinely arrest people on criminal-trespass charges with no justification, the suit says, creating what some residents describe as a police state in which they feel compelled to carry identification while performing mundane tasks like picking up mail or doing laundry.

And the practice has isolated many residents because friends and relatives are leery of visiting for fear of being stopped by the police, the suit says.

The suit, which seeks class-action status, mirrors arguments in a separate federal lawsuit filed in 2010 against the police and the New York City Housing Authority claiming that public-housing tenants and their visitors are subject to baseless trespassing arrests.

The latest suit, filed on behalf of 13 plaintiffs by the New York Civil Liberties Union in Manhattan Federal Court, claims that residents and their guests are subject to arbitrary enforcement practices that violate antidiscrimination provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act, as well as their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

In one instance cited in the suit, a 17-year-old boy who lives in the Bronx described being stopped by the police and questioned after returning from buying ketchup for dinner. His mother, Jaenean Ligon, was asked by officers to go to the lobby to identify her son, who she initially feared was dead or hurt.

Abdullah Turner, 24, was arrested on a trespassing charge as he waited on the sidewalk outside a building in the Bronx where a friend had stopped to drop off a sweater, the suit said. He never entered the lobby, the suit says.

You can read the entire article and the lawsuit filed by the ACLU at nytimes.com

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