In a move that must have irritated Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, the Bronx District Attorney has said it will no longer prosecute folks arrested for trespassing in public housing based on a stop and frisk unless arresting officers sit down and explain the details of the bust.
Jeanette Rucker, the prosecutor in charge of arraignments for Bronx DA Robert Johnson, said as much in a letter to the NYPD at the end of July. Rucker said she had been receiving repeated complaints for defense lawyers about innocent people being busted for trespassing. She looked into it further and found many were either tenants or invited guests. Kelly replied, saying Rucker was overstating the problem.
So, from now on, police can’t just file paperwork for a trespassing arrest following a stop. They have to debrief prosecutors about it. That requirement will likely reduce the number of such trespassing arrests.
New Yorkers have been complaining for years, that they were arrested for trespassing even when they had a relative in the building or simply didn’t have their ID card with them at the time of the visit. The busts often take place during stop and frisks. The policy could also reduce the number of stops by police.
The subtext of the policy change is also something of a slap at the NYPD, and an unusually public one. Basically, they are saying some of these arrests are illegal because there is no pretext for the stop.
The policy change will also effect the Clean Halls program, in which private buildings agree to allow officers to patrol their hallways.
Whether the city’s other district attorneys will follow suit remains unclear.