The Atlantic: In New York, a 20-Year-Old Policy Suddenly Prompts a Lawsuit

In late March, three civil rights groups filed a class action lawsuit against the New York City police department, alleging that a little-known crime-fighting program violated the constitutional rights of tens of thousands of New Yorkers.

The program, called Operation Clean Halls, permits police to conduct vertical patrols inside and around private residences, seeking out trespassers and drug crime. The lawsuit, which was filed by the NYCLU, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and the Bronx Defenders, questions whether the police have overstepped their Fourth Amendment boundaries while implementing the program. The suit alleges that officers have used Clean Halls to make baseless stops and trespassing arrests in primarily black and Latino neighborhoods, cuffing residents in their own hallways as they stepped out to buy a bottle of ketchup, or while they waited outside a girlfriend or sister’s building.

The suit is part of a larger public outcry against the NYPD, which is also under fire for its surveillance of American Muslims, its dealings with Occupy Wall Street protesters, and its increasingly frequent practice of stopping and frisking black and Latino men. But few have pointed to the thick information wall surrounding Operation Clean Halls, which has been in existence, in some form, since 1991.

By Julie Turkewitz

Read more here.