A bombshell new civil class action lawsuit alleges that the NYPD has an illegal policy of sending people with warrants attached to their names to city jails without ever bringing them before a judge.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed in the Southern District of New York, people detained under this policy were left to languish in Rikers and other city jails regardless of whether their warrants were even valid.
It isn’t hard to see why this policy, if it exists, would cause major civil rights concerns. Take the lead plaintiff in this lawsuit, Paul Phillips’ case, for example.
In 2020, the lawsuit alleges that Phillips was detained at Rikers for four days after his name came up associated with a warrant from the 1980s. Only, according to the lawsuit, a judge had already vacated the warrant a decade earlier.
Had a court actually looked at Phillips’ warrant the fact that it was vacated “could have been readily verified,” according to the lawsuit. Instead, Phillips, who takes medication for his opioid addiction, PTSD, and bi-polar disorder, allegedly deteriorated in jail without access to his meds.
Even though he’s been released, the lawsuit alleges the threat to Phillips, who now suffers from increased night terrors and panic attacks, isn’t over.
His lawyers allege that he remains at risk of being returned to Rikers as long as the policy of taking anyone whose warrants are still within NYPD’s system into custody remains in-place.
Phillips’ story isn’t the only case mentioned in the lawsuit. Another plaintiff, who like Phillips says his warrant was invalid, lost nearly 20 pounds due to being denied proper nutrition over his two and half-week detention.
Without an injunction, attorneys in the lawsuit argue he could easily be brought back to jail any time he encounters the NYPD.
“The incarcerations the city has performed under the policy are nothing short of an extrajudicial campaign of terror and kidnapping,” wrote the plaintiff’s lawyers.