On Wednesday, a federal court approved a final settlement agreement regarding the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) improper and unlawful enforcement of criminal trespass laws in public housing. This settlement resolves Davis et al. v. City of New York et al., 10 Civ. 0699, a five year-old federal class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents and their guests, challenging the NYPD’s policy and practice of routine, stops and arrests of such persons in a racially discriminatory manner and without sufficient evidence of wrongdoing. Judge Shira Scheindlin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York approved the settlement reached by the parties after a period of time in which class members had an opportunity to voice their opinions about its terms.
As a result of the court’s final approval, the Davis case will now 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 court-appointed monitor and former NYC Corporation Counsel, Peter Zimroth. Community stakeholders, including public housing residents, will have input in the reforms to the NYPD through a joint remedial process that is being presided over by retired State Appellate Division Justice Ariel Belen. The Davis plaintiffs are represented by the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), The Legal Aid Society, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.
“We filed the Davis litigation in an effort to eliminate the widespread problem of illegal arrests in public housing developments. This agreement strikes the right balance between safety in NYCHA developments and the rights of residents and their guests to be free from harassment and unlawful arrests. The court monitoring process offers an opportunity for the community and the NYPD to have a meaningful discussion that is essential for constructive change, especially during this critical time in police-community relations,” said Seymour James, Jr., Attorney-in-Chief of the Legal Aid Society. “We will now engage in the process that can ensure better security, and better police services, for public housing residents.”
“The court’s final approval of the Davis settlement is an historic moment for New York City’s public housing community. But the court’s approval only marks the beginning of the hard work that lies ahead as we enter the court-monitoring process to bring about lasting reform of the NYPD,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “Public housing residents, the vast majority of whom are people of color, deserve to be treated fairly by police officers and with the utmost respect. We look forward to working with the City, NYCHA, and, most importantly, public housing residents to make sure that happens.”
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, requires documentation of all trespass arrests in NYC public housing, and modifies certain NYCHA rules concerning residents’ cooperation with police and the prohibited activity of “lingering.”
NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is a leading voice in the struggle to ensure equal opportunity for all Americans. Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, LDF has been recognized as the nation’s foremost civil rights law organization. Although initially affiliated with the NAACP, LDF has been an entirely separate organization since 1957. Media should refer to the organization ss “LDF” or “the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.”
The Legal Aid Society (LAS) is a private, not-for-profit legal services organization, the oldest and largest in the nation, dedicated since 1876 to providing quality legal representation to low-income New Yorkers. It is dedicated to one simple but powerful belief: that no New Yorker should be denied access to justice because of poverty.