Settlement of lawsuit over New York taxi rider frisks

Reuters News
Posted: May 15, 2012 6:03 PM
Settlement of lawsuit over New York taxi rider frisks

By Basil Katz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York police officers at their daily roll call are now being told they may not systemically search taxi passengers for weapons, in a deal to settle a lawsuit over the city's controversial stop and frisk program.

The lawsuit said the NYPD had extended its hotly contested stop-and-frisk practices to include regular passenger searches during inspections of taxis and livery cabs that participate in the Taxi/Livery Robbery Inspection Program, run by police.

The lawsuit, which was settled on Monday, was filed last May in U.S. District Court in Manhattan by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The NYCLU maintains that black and Latino New Yorkers are stopped with alarming frequency, even though in the great majority of cases they are found to have done nothing wrong. In 2011, police performed more stop and frisk searches of young black men than the total number of young black men living in New York, the NYCLU said.

The NYCLU sued on behalf of Terrence Battle and Muni Pujara, residents of Brooklyn and Harlem respectively, who said they were frisked by police in 2010 when the livery cabs they were riding in were pulled over.

"Being pulled out of a livery car late at night when I had done nothing wrong was outrageous and frightening," Battle, an African-American radio executive, said in a statement.

Under the settlement, signed by federal judge Richard Berman, Pujara and Battle will each receive $10,000 from the city as well as a combined $37,5000 in attorneys' fees.

The city had argued there was no NYPD policy of searching passengers and the searches in the case were "isolated incidents." The city and the police do not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement.

The settlement required, however, that at 10 consecutive roll calls in all NYPD commands, officers be told that passenger searches could only be conducted if the officers "fear for their safety" or "reasonably suspect the passenger is armed."

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg)