MANHATTAN — Civil rights advocates have filed a class-action lawsuit challenging part of the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk program that allows police to patrol private apartment buildings.
The Manhattan Federal Court suit says the program, Operation Clean Halls, has resulted in the humiliation, harassment and wrongful arrest of multiple residents.
Operation Clean Halls is a voluntary program that dispatches police officers to apartment buildings, typically located in high-crime areas. Landlords can opt in to the program, which prompts officers to patrol the buildings looking for drug activity, trespassing or loitering.
According to information from the New York Civil Liberties Union, nearly 3,900 buildings in Manhattan alone take part in the program.
"Operation Clean Halls has placed hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, mostly black and Latino, under siege in their own homes," Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, said in a statement.
"Untold numbers of people have been wrongly arrested for trespassing because they had the audacity to leave their apartments without IDs or visit friends and family who live in Clean Halls buildings," Lieberman added. "This aggressive assault on people’s constitutional rights must be stopped."
The organizations that filed the lawsuit — including the NYCLU, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and The Bronx Defenders — are seeking an injunction against actions taken under the Operation Clean Halls program, and a determination that those practices are, in fact, illegal.
They are also seeking to establish citywide standards for the program and implement training for those taking part.
Some residents say police consistently stop people without cause and make unwarranted arrests.
Jacqueline Yates, a plaintiff in the case, said NYPD officers have repeatedly harassed her two teenage sons inside her apartment building in the Bronx.
"My children shouldn’t be treated like criminal suspects in their home," Yates said in a statement. "I believe the NYPD has a role to play in our community. But right now, they don’t make us feel safe."
In a statement provided to WNYC, the NYPD’s chief spokesman, Paul Browne defended the program.
"By challenging uninvited individuals, police are providing a level of safety to tenants that residents of doormen buildings take for granted," Browne said.