New York Daily News

March 16, 2015, 4:29 PM



Police unions: NYPD is handcuffing cops on Clean Halls patrols



An apartment building at 1515 Selwyn Ave., the Bronx, part of the NYPD's Clean Halls program of private building patrols.


Cops have been warned not to stop people at private apartment buildings unless they reasonably suspect the person is trespassing, according to an internal NYPD message.

Two police unions decried the new guidelines as a victory for criminals.

But the New York Civil Liberties Union said they greatly reduce the chance of baseless arrests — while still providing police the ability to fight crime.

“This is a simple directive that makes a simple point: officers cannot stop or arrest people simply because they are in or near a Clean Halls building,” said Christopher Dunn, the NYCLU’s associate legal director.

“Beyond that, officers remain free to enforce the law when they see suspicious activity.”

The March 10 Finest Message codifies for officers — apparently for the first time — the circumstances under which they can stop people at private buildings whose owners, under terms of NYPD’s Operation Clean Halls initiative, give police permission to conduct patrols there to make sure no one is trespassing.

But “mere presence in or outside a building” is not an “objective credible reason” to conduct a stop, the message says.

“A uniformed member of the service may not approach a person merely because the person has entered or exited or is present near a building enrolled in the trespass affidavit program,” it reads.

The NYCLU in March 2012 filed a class-action lawsuit that alleged police stopped people without justification, including people who actually lived in those buildings.

The NYPD during the case admitted it didn’t have formal guidelines in place, and some officers testified they felt they could stop anyone if the building was part of Clean Halls.

Judge Shira Scheindlin later ruled that too many of the stops were unconstitutional.

Edward Mullins, head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said the NYPD failed itself by not having guidelines in place.

He also said the new rules do not reflect what most residents want.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” he said. “The great number of people who complained don’t speak for the majority of people who speak for safer communities.”

Pat Lynch, head of the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, said the guidelines spell the end “of the successful Clean Halls program.”

“The courts have given those with criminal intent the right to loiter in places that they have no legitimate reason to be,” he said. “The court is protecting the rights of criminals while blatantly violating the rights of residents to have a home free of threats and criminality.”

Two weeks ago, the NYPD, in a separate Finest Message, was given new step-by-step instructions on how to conduct stop-and-frisks.

They, too, were a by-product of a Scheindlin ruling that police use of the controversial tactic violated the rights of minorities.