NYPD Stop-and-Frisks Outside Bronx Apartments Ruled Unconstitutional

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As part of the NYPD's "Clean Halls" program, officers routinely stop individuals for just being near thousands of Bronx buildings and must "immediately cease" doing so without "reasonable suspicion of trespass," a federal judge ruled today. "While it may be difficult to say where, precisely, to draw the line between constitutional and unconstitutional police encounters, such a line exists, and the NYPD has systematically crossed it when making trespass stops outside [Trespass Affidavit Program] buildings in the Bronx," wrote Judge Shira Scheindlin in a ruling the NYCLU, which represents the plaintiffs, called "a major step toward dismantling the NYPD's stop-and-frisk regime."

"In order for an officer to have 'reasonable suspicion' that an individual is engaged in criminal trespass, the officer must be able to articulate facts providing 'a minimal level of objective justification for making the stop,' which means 'something more than an inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or hunch,'" Scheindlin ruled in her 157-page decision. "In particular, an individual observed exiting or entering a [Clean Halls] building does not establish reasonable suspicion of trespass, even if the building is located in a high crime area, and regardless of the time of day."

The case was one of three relating to stop-and-frisks before Scheindlin, who granted one class-action status last year. For now, the preliminary injunction calls for the police department to specify its written standards for trespassing stops and adjust officer training accordingly.

"Today's decision is a major step toward dismantling the NYPD's stop-and-frisk regime," said NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman. "Operation Clean Halls has placed New Yorkers, mostly black and Latino, under siege in their own homes in thousands of apartment buildings. This aggressive assault on people's constitutional rights must be stopped."