The Bronx Defenders Files Suits Against the NYPD and the City of New York for Abuse and Violence Against Black and Brown Families


Media Contacts:   Michael Paul Jackson,   

NEW YORK — Today, The Bronx Defenders filed two lawsuits on behalf of clients challenging police violence and aggression toward Black and brown people. With these cases—and more to come soon—the Impact Litigation Practice is helping clients of The Bronx Defenders demand respect for their fundamental civil rights in policing.  

In the first case, Williams v City et al case number 1:23-cv-01670, plaintiff Albert Williams, a sixty-year-old Black man, seeks to recover for injuries he suffered when nine plainclothes officers from the Bronx Narcotics Unit beat him in the street while yelling racial epithets. They punched, kicked, and stomped him repeatedly while he was prone on the ground with his hands behind his back. Then they held him in handcuffs against the back of their van while punching him in the groin and calling him “n*****”. They arrested him on trumped up charges that the prosecutor later entirely dismissed.  

This unit has a pattern of lawlessness and violence toward Black and brown people, and the City has responded mostly by doling out huge sums of taxpayer money: In the last ten years, the City paid $23 million to settle claims against Bronx Narcotics, a unit of only about 100 officers. The City paid $300,000 to settle claims just against the one officer involved in beating Mr. Williams whose identity is currently known. Yet the NYPD never disciplined that officer or any of the most sued officers in Bronx Narcotics. Read the complaint here. 

The Bronx Defenders represents Mr. Williams with pro bono co-counsel Jake Meiseles and Richad Hirani 

These cases show how the NYPD and the City of New York allow a brushfire of police misconduct to keep burning, at great risk to the safety and lives of Black and brown New Yorkers. 

“The officers in these cases did not see the people they targeted as deserving of safety or dignity, which happens too often,” said Kshithij Shrinath, Legal Fellow at the Impact Litigation Practice of The Bronx Defenders. “The police routinely act like they have impunity to be violent and aggressive against Black and brown people because the City and the NYPD have sent them that message.” 

“This has to stop because I don’t want what happened to me to happen to my grandchildren,” Mr. Williams said. 

In the second case, Lee v. City et al case number 1:23-cv-01697, plaintiff Cheyenne Lee, a woman of Black and Native American ancestry brings suit after ten NYPD officers—at the direction of a Lieutenant on the scene—barged into her home without a warrant and then arrested her without basis when she asked them not to hurt her teenage nephew.  The NYPD was responding to a neighbor’s call about an alleged dispute between the nephew and his father, but the police arrived and observed the father to be safe and he told them, repeatedly, he was fine.  

Despite this, the officers pushed into the apartment where Ms. Lee lived to help care for her nephew, and, without any reason to believe the nephew posed a threat, three officers drew tasers and approached his bedroom. Fearful—and knowing what can happen to young Black men in these moments—Ms. Lee pleaded with the officers not to tase her “child.” In response, the Lieutenant directed the officers to arrest her.  

The officers then fabricated a reason for the arrest to cover up for their misconduct and lied to the prosecutor—lies that are evident from their body camera footage. The prosecutor later dismissed all charges. Read the complaint here. 

“Like everyone else, my family and I have the right to feel safe and secure in our own home, but the nine officers who broke into my house violated those rights,” Ms. Lee said. “The NYPD had no reason to barge into my house, arrest me, and terrorize my family. I begged them not to brutalize my nephew, and they punished me for it. I felt like they kidnapped me for standing up for our rights. This kind of treatment must not stand.”

Police aggression against Black and brown people—accepted and condoned by the NYPD—must stop. Violent police misconduct, as experienced by Mr. Williams and Ms. Lee, leads to police killings and, even when no one is killed, to widespread and inter-generational harm.

The Bronx Defenders represents Ms. Lee with pro bono counsel Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, LLP.     

“We are proud to work with Bronx Defenders to represent a brave plaintiff willing to stand up against police misconduct,” said Lina Bensman, Partner at Cleary Gottlieb.