The NYPD has resolved a class action lawsuit alleging police of stopping people on the street without a valid reason and searching their warrants, which is against the law.
The city consents to pay the five plaintiffs and their counsel in Terron Belle et al. more than $453,000 as part of the 2019 lawsuit settlement. al. v. the City of New York, update their patrol guide, and teach officers so they don’t unnecessarily hold city residents so they can check the department’s database to determine if they have an outstanding arrest warrant or bench warrant filed against them or check whether they’re needed for questioning.
Innocent New Yorkers are arbitrarily detained in the street so aggressive NYPD officers can check their IDs, according to civil rights lawyer Cyrus Joubin, who was working with the Legal Aid Society to represent Belle and four other plaintiffs.
“This lawsuit has always been about bringing justice to innocent New Yorkers,” he said.
We are proud to have not only brought attention to the NYPD’s abusive practices using their domain awareness system but also taken a significant step to restrain such abusive practices, thanks to the five courageous plaintiffs who shared their stories and sought to hold the NYPD accountable.
However, thanks to advancements in the NYPD’s handheld technology, officers can now check a person’s name against several databases to see if they are wanted for any other crimes.
Police are still allowed to stop and frisk anyone they suspect of having a gun or drugs, but this practice is now more common.
However, police can only question someone for the length of time necessary to corroborate or refute their reasonable suspicion.
According to attorneys, the NYPD has a long history of unlawful search and seizure tactics, and conducting a warrant check on someone without sufficient cause violates their fourth amendment rights.
Four plainclothes officers stopped Belle on the street and checked him for firearms, leading to the filing of the complaint in 2019.
Even though their first fear — that he had a gun — had been disproven, they sought his ID and detained him to perform a warrant check.
Plaintiff Edison Quito stated, “In a free country, you shouldn’t have to give authorities your ID for them to run a warrant check just because you’re standing on the sidewalk.”
“I took on the case to try to fight the NYPD’s unlawful behavior, and I’m glad about the outcome,” the plaintiff said.
Belle expressed her wish in the settlement that “what happened to me won’t happen to other individuals.”
When I had done nothing wrong, he claimed, “I was handled like a criminal and imprisoned against my will so that they might run a warrant check on me.”
The deal “was in the best interest of all parties,” a city Law Department official claimed.
The NYPD did not admit fault in the lawsuit settlement but did consent to the modifications.
Police have been warned not to detain people without a reason to undertake warrant checks at every roll call over the past week.
The settlement states that officers would receive new training on the modified policies and could experience internal penalties if they break them.
According to Molly Griffard, staff attorney with the Cop Accountability Project at The Legal Aid Society, “the NYPD maintained an unconstitutional practice for years of extending stops to run warrant and I-card searches, turning each of these stops into an unrelated fishing expedition and subjecting our clients to harassment by police.”
This agreement “marks a change in the official policy of the New York Police Department and holds the NYPD accountable for violating the rights of New Yorkers.”