Wednesday, March 28th, 2012. New York City – ‘Operation Clean Halls’ is a part of the NYPD’s stop and frisk program which allows police officers to patrol thousands of private apartment buildings across New York City. The program began in 1991 and was intended to deter crime in private apartment buildings. But, instead of targeting suspicious activity, the NYPD is using ‘Clean Halls’ as an excuse to stop, question, frisk, detain and even arrest totally innocent people.
This video contains the personal testimonies of people who live in buildings with Operation Clean Halls.
Many buildings don’t have the sign, “Operation Clean Halls” but NYPD officers still go into the buildings and harass people.
“Operation Clean Halls has placed hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, mostly black and Latino, under siege in their own homes,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “For residents of Clean Halls buildings, taking the garbage out or checking the mail can result in being thrown against the wall and humiliated by police. 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. This aggressive assault on people’s constitutional rights must be stopped.”
All tenants of the thousands of buildings enrolled in the program and their guests are at a heightened risk of unjustified and unlawful NYPD stop-and-frisks or trespassing arrests. Many tenants who live in Clean Halls buildings are restricted in their ability to maintain familial ties and friendships due to the use of aggressive police tactics in their homes. The program is part of a citywide practice of suspicionless police stops and arrests that primarily impact communities of color.
“The NYPD uses Clean Halls as a license to stop anybody, at any time, on suspicion of trespassing,” said NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Alexis Karteron, lead attorney on the case. “As a result, people who live in Clean Halls buildings are under constant threat of being stopped, frisked, harassed and even arrested by police officers. This type of activity has no place in a free society, and we’re confident the courts will put a stop to it.”
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of residents of buildings enrolled in Operation Clean Halls and individuals who were unlawfully stopped and arrested on trespassing charges through the program. The City of New York, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and individual police officers who were involved in unlawful arrests are listed as defendants. It maintains that the NYPD’s enforcement of Operation Clean Halls violates the U.S. Constitution, the New York State Constitution, the federal Fair Housing Act and New York common law.
Plaintiff Jacqueline Yates lives in an apartment building in the Bronx enrolled in the program. Yates’ two teenage sons are regularly harassed by NYPD officers in her buildings’ stairwells, lobby and courtyard. Her friends and family are reluctant to visit her out of fear of being stopped by police and potentially arrested for trespassing.
“My children shouldn’t be treated like criminal suspects in their home. They shouldn’t expect to be bothered by police officers every time they leave our apartment,” Yates said. “I believe the NYPD has a role to play in our community. But right now, they don’t make us feel safe. We feel under attack in our homes.”
“Every day, we meet these New Yorkers – sons, mothers, fathers, daughters – caught up in this NYPD dragnet targeting private buildings called ‘Clean Halls,’” said McGregor Smyth, managing attorney at The Bronx Defenders. “From the moment of arrest, they are in danger of losing their jobs, their homes, and even the possibility of citizenship. Today, our clients say the abuses by NYPD must end.”
Fawn Bracy said, “I’m actually scared of the police who patrol my complex. I pray that nothing happens because I don’t want to have to call the police. I just don’t trust them.”
The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the NYPD’s practices are unlawful and an injunction against them. It asks that the injunction require the NYPD and the city to:
* Stop asking people inside and around Clean Halls buildings for ID or about their destination without suspicion that they are trespassing or engaged in other wrongdoing;
* Stop arresting people for trespassing in Clean Halls buildings without establishing whether or not the person is authorized to be there;
* Establish citywide standards for enrollment of buildings in Operation Clean Halls;
* Establish policies concerning the authority of NYPD officers to enter Clean Halls buildings;
* Implement training for officers who patrol Clean Halls buildings;
* Submit for review a protocol to significantly reduce the number of unjustified stops and arrests of people in Clean Halls buildings; and
* Award compensatory damages to named plaintiffs.
join NYCLU on Tuesday, April 3 at 7 p.m. as Daniel Mullkhoff, one of the attorney’s on the case, discusses the legal challenge to Operation Clean Halls as part of the NYCLU’s Civil Liberties Discussion Series. The discussion is free and open to the public and takes place at the Manhattan offices at 125 Broad Street, 19th floor. Please RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the clean halls program, visit www.nyclu.org.