A preliminary settlement agreement has been 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.
“Public housing residents and their visitors, the vast majority of whom are people of color, deserve safety, as well as the courtesy and respect of the law enforcement officers who are sworn to serve and protect them,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “Today’s settlement is an important step forward in the struggle for more equitable policing, but it is just the beginning. The real work lies ahead as we partner with others to reform the NYPD through the court-ordered monitoring process.”
“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 are eager to begin the process that will ensure better security, and better police services, for public housing residents.”
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.”
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.
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 finest civil rights law firm. Although initially affiliated with the NAACP, LDF has been an entirely separate organization since 1957. Please refer to us as “LDF” or “The Legal Defense Fund” in all media.