The NAACP recently settled the five-year-old class action lawsuit Davis v. City of New York regarding unlawful stops and arrests in a “racially discriminatory manner and without sufficient evidence of wrongdoing” on public housing properties, a version of the NYPD’s infamous stop-and-frisk practices.
According to reports, Southern District Justice Shira Scheindlin of the U.S. District Court approved the settlement after parties on both sides shared their opinions and voiced their grievances over a six-month period.
Residents of New York City Housing named in the lawsuit claimed that they or guests were unlawfully stopped or detained while on the property, some while visiting family or friends. The case suggests that the NYPD only implements these types of policies in communities of color, citing violations of the Fourth and 14th Amendments. Residents said their rights had been violated based upon racial prejudices.
The New York Civil Liberties Union reports that out of the 46,235 times New Yorkers were stopped by police, 82 percent were completely innocent and 55 percent were Black. As a result of the settlement, the case will become part of the court monitoring process previously put into place after the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policies were decidedly declared unlawful.
“We filed the Davis litigation in an effort to eliminate the widespread problem of illegal arrests in public housing developments. This agreement strikes the right balance between safety in NYCHA developments and the rights of residents and their guests to be free from harassment and unlawful arrests,” said Seymour James Jr., attorney-in-chief of the Legal Aid Society, in a statement. “The court monitoring process offers an opportunity for the community and the NYPD to have a meaningful discussion that is essential for constructive change, especially during this critical time in police-community relations. We will now engage in the process that can ensure better security, and better police services, for public housing residents.”
Peter Zimroth, former New York City Corporation counsel, will now oversee both the stop-and-frisk case (Floyd v. City of New York) as well as Davis v. City of New York. His job is to ensure that revisions and reformation policies are enforced through the court. Residents may also participate in the reformation process.
According to Jin Hee Lee, department director of litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the settlement calls for revisions within the police patrol guide, which governs how officers patrol and enforce laws, as well as the trespass fact sheet and the disciplinary process of officers who make unlawful stops and arrests. In addition, officers will be required to document trespass arrests, citing the reasons for detaining someone on public housing properties. In the past, officers were allowed to make trespass arrests without properly reporting the offense, Lee explains.
“Because public housing is over 90 percent Black and Latino, this is definitely a situation where communities of color are disproportionately impacted by a certain kind of police abuses. This is one of the reasons why the Legal Defense Fund got involved,” Lee said. “We felt that, especially with public housing, it’s double discrimination. It’s assumptions of people of color, saying Blacks and Latinos are more likely to commit criminal behavior. On top of that, with public housing, there are these negative stereotypes. We felt that the way public housing residents have been treated and perceived is a product of these false negative stereotypes.”
Lee says the settlement is part of a long-term process of reforming a systematic issue plaguing communities of color. She says that with the court monitoring in place, the Legal Defense Fund hopes to achieve a better sense of accountability within the Police Department and mend the relationship between New Yorkers and the NYPD.
Community members may stay updated on the case by visiting www.naacpldf.org/davisclass. There is a hotline 877-301 2201 and an email address at DavisClass@naacpldf.org for interested parties to report unlawful activity or to ask questions about the case.