Black, Latino Bronx Residents Sue NYPD Over Civil Rights

Black and Latino Bronx, N.Y., natives say that NYPD Operation Clean Halls made them feel inhuman.

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According to the Guardian, 13 black and Latino Bronx, N.Y., residents have filed a class-action lawsuit against the New York Police Department as a result of what they feel is a violation of their civil rights. The group, which includes mothers and their teenage children, charge that they have been stripped of their ability to live comfortably and without fear thanks to Operation Clean Halls, which works in tandem with the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy.

Beginning in 1991, Operation Clean Halls allows police officers to monitor private buildings if the property's owner has signed a waiver sanctioning access. As such, residents say, this policy gives police the right to arrest individuals involved in criminal activity and harass innocent bystanders, leaving them unable to do simple things, like host visiting relatives or risk leaving their identification at home.

The Guardian reports:  

In the Bronx, Clean Halls agreements have reportedly authorized police to enter enrolled buildings "into perpetuity". According to the suit, there are at least 3,895 Clean Halls buildings in Manhattan alone and in the Bronx "virtually every private apartment building is enrolled in the program".

When asked for comment on the suit, NYPD deputy commissioner Paul Browne wrote to the Guardian to say, "By challenging uninvited individuals, police are providing a level of safety to tenants that residents of doormen buildings take for granted."

Browne added: "The year before Clean Halls started was 1990. There were 710,221 index crimes in 1990. There were 2,245 murders in 1990. In 2011 there were 106,530 index crimes. There were 504 homicides. 1990 was an all time high in homicides. If we maintained that rate we would have 30,000 more people murdered since 1990."

NYPD data indicates that between 2006 and 2010, the department made 329,446 stops based on suspicion of trespassing, representing 12% of all stops. Out the total number of stops 7.5% have led to arrests. In 2010 the 10 precincts with the most arrests accounted for nearly as many stops as the remaining 66 precincts combined. The significant number of stops in comparison to the low-level of arrests -- and their prevalence in black and Latino communities -- reflect patterns in the NYPD's street-level stop-and-frisk program.

Last year the department broke its own record by stopping and questioning nearly 700,000 people, an increase of over 600% since the program began in 2002. Of those stopped in 2011, 87% were African American or Latino.

The plantiffs' position is no doubt exacerbated by the February 2012 death of Ramarley Graham, who was shot inside his grandmother's Bronx apartment by police without a warrant. It's clear that specifically targeting black and brown New Yorkers isn't effective or fair. What about the non-black or -brown criminals? Who's investigating them?

Read more at the Guardian.

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