The NYPD finalized a settlement with the Legal Aid Society and two private law firms on Friday, December 16th. The matter, filed in 2019 as a class action lawsuit, accused the NYPD of keeping people in custody for long periods of time after stopping them during car and pedestrian stops. The police would conduct a stop-and-frisk of a person walking the streets, search him, and then ask for his identity document to check on the NYPD’s records whether the person was part of an investigation or named in a warrant, essentially a digitized stop-and-frisk. The lawsuit questioned the legality of the prolonged street stops.
The settlement will require the city to pay more than $450,000 in legal fees and damages. The settlement would also require the NYPD to implement retraining sessions and change their conduct regarding situations described in the lawsuit.
Terron Belle was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. “I brought this lawsuit to challenge the NYPD’s violation of my rights and the rights of other Black and Latinx people all over the city,” Belle said in a press release. “I am hopeful that the settlement reached will keep what happened to me from happening to other people. I was treated like a criminal and held against my will so that they could run a warrant check on me when I had done nothing wrong.”
Belle alleged that on a night in 2017, he was walking home from the subway when he was stopped by four police officers. The police officers carried out a search on Belle for a firearm. Belle was not in possession of a weapon, yet the police officers asked for his ID and proceeded to check if he was a person of interest. The practice, which is alleged to have been routinely carried out by the NYPD, is unconstitutional and violates people’s Fourth Amendment rights, according to the Legal Aid Society.
The NYPD’s stop and search practices are infamous. Police officers have been accused of over-policing, and stopping and searching people based on discriminatory grounds. In some cases, officers are known to question people simply standing around. “In a free country, you shouldn’t have to give officers your ID for them to run a warrant check just because you’re standing on the sidewalk,” said Edison Quito, one of the plaintiffs in the suit. “I joined the case to try to challenge the NYPD’s illegal practice and I am proud of the result.”
The NYPD has not accepted any wrongdoing. “The NYPD is committed to upholding the constitutional rights of individuals, and has agreed to clarify its existing policy to make it clear when officers can run a warrant query during a detainment,” the department said. The NYPD announced their decision to retrain sergeants and officers on patrol guide changes. The policy change prevents officers from detaining a person while searching for warrants or open investigations. If officers discover that a person has committed no crime, they are not allowed to detain that person.