New York Law School

Archive for February, 2011

Vertical Patrols: The Illegal Expansion of Search and Seizures Targeted at Minority Communities of New York City Housing Authority

The New York Police Department (“NYPD”) implements vertical patrols and trespass arrests (“vertical patrols”) as tools to encourage public safety. A legal vertical patrol is when the police sweep a building from the rooftop to the floor level, noting any safety hazards, and securing the premises against any possible illegal acts when they have an articulable suspicion to do so. In Davis v. City of New York, plaintiffs filed a complaint against the City of New York and the New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA”), alleging that the NYPD had enforced and conducted illegal vertical patrols that produced a pattern of illegal stops, seizures, and arrests. These vertical patrols violated plaintiffs’ constitutional rights under the 4th and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution, the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968, the Fair Housing Act, the United Housing Act, and the laws of New York City and New York State law. Here, I focus on New York’s Constitution, Article I, Section 12, the right against illegal search and seizures. The NYPD has overstepped the legality of vertical patrols when they target individuals, often minorities, on NYCHA premises, and arrest them for criminal trespass. The NYPD makes arrests when the minority individuals cannot provide proof of being a NYCHA resident or proof of them visiting a NYCHA resident, such as providing the legal name or exact address of their friend. These vertical patrols violate the rights of NYCHA residents and interfere with their comfort and enjoyment of their homes.

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