A federal judge recently ruled that a lawsuit filed by New York City public housing residents alleging their rights were violated because the New York City Housing Authority allowed police checkpoints is allowed to continue under class action status, the Courthouse News Service reports.
The residents complained that police "indiscriminately stop and question every person they observe, without objective individualized suspicion of a crime, and unlawfully arrest individuals for trespass without probable cause." The lawsuit alleges the city didn't supervise and discipline officers for these actions, either.
Discrimination in New York comes in many forms. While it may most commonly be considered in terms of a work environment, when a person is denied a promotion, a job or opportunities because of race, gender, sexual orientation or other factors, it is also applies in public settings. Public housing applicants, consumers and others can face unlawful discrimination throughout their daily lives.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings and in other housing-related transactions based on sex, race, color, national origin, religion, familial status and disability. It is just one of many laws designed to protect the rights of those dealing with public housing.
Regardless of how discrimination happens, it can be unjust and must be addressed. Sometimes, it can take only a simple discussion about the facts to get things resolved, but other times the problem is so deeply ingrained in a business or public entity that it can't be fixed that easily. Sometimes, litigation is the only way to publicly expose a problem and get it fixed.
In 2009, the Civilian Complaint Review Board filed a flurry of complaints with the housing authority, prompting police to revise the patrol guide to provide guidance to officers in dealing with housing authority properties. The department also received training on how to question people on public housing sites.
But residents still complain there is no evidence the training has paid off. And the judge, in a 22-page order, said that dismissing the lawsuit at this stage would allow officers to continue their ways, despite paying $2.7 million for training, without any change or accountability.
This ruling is a positive step for those who feel their rights have been violated and it will possibly give them the chance to prove to a jury that their rights have been violated by police officers. The beauty of our court system is that it is a checks and balance system for those who do wrong as well as for those who file unjust lawsuits.
And if someone is facing civil rights violations in New York or elsewhere, they should have the right to have a jury decide whether they are right or wrong.
People in public housing and others who are economically challenged sometimes lack hope and believe no one will stand up for them. But there are many lawyers in the tri-state area who can help. Consult with an attorney who will investigate the case, put in the time and do what's right.
The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman handles discrimination cases in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or contact us through the website.
Class Action Against New York City Over NYPD Checkpoints Allowed To Continue, by Adam Klasfeld, Courthouse News Service