NYCLU Sues Manhattan District Attorney for Records on NYPD Patrols


Stop-and-frisk has already been a hot topic in 2012 with folks rallying for better police accountability and others screaming at the mayor at a recent visit to Harlem.

Today, advocates from the New York Civil Liberties Union are going after what they see as a very peculiar form of stop-and-frisk — one that brings police officers into the private homes of city residents.

But this time around, they are not actually targeting the New York Police Department, but instead calling on the Manhattan District Attorney’s office to release data about this specific kind of police action. The group has criticized the NYPD for its methods of stops and interrogations, which they say are forms of racial profiling and sometimes illegally violate privacy rights.

In this latest action, the NYCLU hopes to shed light on the District Attorney’s Trespass Affidavit Program, which lets landlords give police officers permission to patrol the premises. Basically, landlords can sign up for the program and then police have access to enter buildings — halls, lobbies, roofs, anywhere except inside people’s apartments. The NYCLU says it has received numerous reports that police officers are using this program to make unconstitutional stops and trespassing arrests of residents and invited guests in these TAP buildings.

While investigating residents’ complaints, the NYCLU filed a Freedom of Information Law request with the District Attorney seeking information on TAP policies, a list of buildings in the program, and data on trespass arrests in 2009 and 2010. The DA has not given over those numbers, and the NYCLU announced today that it is responding with a lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court for New York County.

“Police officers are provided with keys to private buildings…and they are allowed to go in and patrol those buildings at any time they like,” Alexis Karteron, senior staff attorney with the NYCLU, told Runnin’ Scared this afternoon.

“We’re concerned they’re stopping people that they don’t have a reason to stop,” she said.

The District Attorney refused to disclose the roster of buildings, claiming that it would be an invasion of the landlords’ privacy, according to the NYCLU. (The DA’s office declined to comment to Runnin’ Scared today).

More than 3,000 buildings are enrolled in the program, and the DA’s office says it can be useful in buildings where drug deals take place and where strangers often trespass.

But those criticizing the policy say that this has nothing to do with the privacy of landlords — especially since landlords participating in the program are required to post information that informs tenants that the building is a part of TAP. Karteron said she’s concerned that the program is unfairly targeting specific neighborhoods and areas, such as parts of Upper Manhattan, but added it’s difficult to determine without data.

“We’re really just trying to get a better understanding of who is enrolled,” she said.

Still, it’s part of the NYCLU’s larger agenda challenging what the group calls overly aggressive police tactics, she said.

“We’re very concerned they’re brining stop-and-frisk practices inside residential buildings.”