Housing Authority residents in New York should see a significant drop in harassment by police after the city agreed to revamp rules governing police patrols of buildings. This registers as another achievement in the quest to demolish the stop-and-frisk policies that have targeted and victimized Blacks and other people of color in New York.
A court-appointed monitor of the New York Police Department will oversee the reform of training manuals and guidelines for police interactions with more than 400,000 public housing project residents and visitors. This is part of a preliminary settlement in the Davis v. New York class action suit that had been under consideration for five years.
“The current practice seems to assume they’re criminal just for being in the residence,” said Seymour James, attorney-in-chief of the Legal Aid Society.
A sad example of this happened in November when a rookie officer shot and killed Akai Gurley while patrolling a dark stairwell in the Pink Houses in Brooklyn, although Gurley had done nothing to provoke being gunned down.
The settlement of the suit was expected in the wake of Manhattan Federal Court Judge Shira Scheindlin’s 2013 ruling that stop-and-frisk was unconstitutional. That case pertained to stops on the street. This new judgment applies to NYCHA housing, and requires Scheindlin’s approval.
The plaintiffs in the civil suit argued that, without reasonable suspicion, police disproportionately harassed Housing Authority residents of color, assuming based on race that they were trespassing. Under the new protocol, police must file a report that documents and justifies the encounter with an individual, James of Legal Aid Society said. The agreement does not address when police can draw their weapon or eliminate so-called “vertical patrols.”
“This settlement appropriately balances the need to maximize public safety while respecting the constitutional rights of NYCHA residents and their guests,” a city Law Department spokesman said.
Judge Analisa Torres is expected to oversee the reforms.