NYC Prosecutor Cites Wrongful Arrest Worry, Curbs Housing Trespass Cases


In a significant blow to New York City's use of stop-and-frisk tactics, the Bronx district attorney's office is no longer prosecuting people who were stopped at public housing projects and arrested for trespassing, unless the arresting officer is interviewed to ensure that the arrest was warranted, reports the New York Times. Prosecutors quietly adopted the policy in July after discovering that many people arrested on charges of criminal trespass at housing projects were innocent, even though police officers had provided written statements to the contrary.

By accusing the police of wrongfully arresting people, the stance taken by Bronx prosecutors is the first known instance in which a district attorney has questioned any segment of arrests resulting from stop-and-frisk tactics. Bronx prosecutors are now requiring that they interview the arresting officer in the “hopes of eliminating tenants and invited guest from being prosecuted unlawfully,” the police department was told by Jeannette Rucker, a bureau chief in the district attorney's office. Trespass arrests in the Bronx have fallen 38.2 percent, year to date, compared with 2011. Steven Banks, the chief lawyer of the Legal Aid Society in New York, said, “This is exactly what prosecutors should be doing before proceeding with criminal prosecutions — namely making sure that formulaic statements by police officers actually have some basis to support the arrest and prosecution.”

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