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Federal Judge Halts Stop and Frisk in Bronx, N.Y.

OW Staff | 1/16/2013, 5 p.m.

NEW YORK--U.S. District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin last week issued a preliminary injunction, prohibiting the New York Police Department's practice of stopping and frisking innocent people outside of private apartment buildings in the Bronx, one of five New York City Boroughs.

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the practice known as "Operation Clean Halls," placed most African American and Latino New Yorkers under siege in their homes in thousands of apartment buildings.

"The Latino and African American communities have something to cheer about today as Judge Scheindlin recognized what our communities have long known: The NYPD routinely stops people of color without any reasonable basis, as we have demonstrated they do in front of Cleans Halls buildings," said Juan Cartagena, president of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the NYPD.

Judge Scheindlin ordered the police department to cease immediately its practice of unlawful trespass stops outside of "Clean Halls" buildings. In addition, Scheindlin outlined training and supervision remedies she will consider requiring the department to undertake after an additional hearing.

Scheindlin, who sits on the bench in the Southern District of New York, issued the ruling as part of a federal class-action lawsuit filed in March by the New York Civil Liberties Union, The Bronx Defenders, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and Shearman & Sterling LLP, a New York-based private law firm, which challenged the NYPD's enforcement of "Operation Clean Halls."

The decision came in the case of Ligon v. City of New York, which was filed 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.

Some 3,261 private-apartment buildings are enrolled in the Clean Halls program in the Bronx. The program has existed in some form since 1991, reports the New York Civil Liberties Union
The judge found that the police department routinely violates individuals' constitutional rights and that the NYPD failed to train adequately officers to make legal trespass stops.

"The evidence of numerous unlawful stops at the hearing strengthens the conclusion that the NYPD's inadequate training has taught officers the following lesson: stop and question first, develop reasonable suspicion later," Scheidlin wrote in her decision.