NYCLU Sues DA Over List of Police Patrols in Buildings
Sunday, January 29, 2012 - 12:00 AM
The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit to force the Manhattan District Attorney to turn over a list of privately owned buildings where police officers are allowed to enter and regularly patrol.
Landlords concerned about criminal activity in their buildings can sign up for the DA's Trespass Affidavit Program, or TAP. The 20-year-old program is part of "Operation Clean Halls," a citywide NYPD effort designed to combat illegal activity in apartment buildings.
In the lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court on January 20, the NYCLU claims the NYPD conducts hundreds of thousands of patrols in Operation Clean Halls-enrolled buildings within New York City, resulting in thousands of arrests annually. The lawsuit cites the DA's 2010 statistics showing hundreds of arrests stemming from police patrols of over 3,200 private residential buildings participating in TAP.
In response to the NYCLU's earlier request under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), the District Attorney declined to provide the roster of TAP enrolled buildings, claiming it would violate landlords' privacy rights. The DA's office later invoked FOIL's law enforcement and public safety exemption in denying the NYCLU's appeal.
NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said, "People have raised serious concerns that the NYPD is using this program to bring its unlawful stop-and-frisk practices into apartment buildings."
During the first nine months of 2011, the NYPD reported 514,461 New Yorkers were stopped and interrogated by police, a 13 percent increase over the same period in 2010. According to NYPD statistics 54 percent were black, 31 percent were Latino, and 88 percent of those encounters did not result in arrests or tickets.
NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Alexis Karteron, lead counsel in the case, said landlords already must post signs announcing their participation in TAP, so releasing a list of the buildings would simply bring more transparency to the NYPD's practices.
She said releasing the TAP building roster might show that "there are certain neighborhoods where there are more buildings enrolled than others." That would give the public "a sense of how it overlaps with the police department's stop-and-frisk practices."
Karteron said the NYCLU has received numerous reports of tenants and their guests being stopped by police and sometimes arrested for trespassing. "The public has every right to know the scope of this troubling program. If the District Attorney's office won't turn over these records, we're confident that the courts will require them to do so," she said.
The Manhattan DA's office declined to comment on the lawsuit.