NYPD Finally Starts Obeying Court Order, Sometimes

What does it take to get the NYPD to obey court orders? So far, it's taken a $100,000 settlement and the threat of a contempt finding.

In 1992, a federal judge found a law prohibiting loitering “for the purpose of begging” unconstitutional and enjoined its enforcement in New York City. The decision was upheld on appeal, but that hasn't stopped officers from illegally arresting hundreds of people for violating the law. Some have been arrested repeatedly, and some prosecutors have tried to bring charges under the unconstitutional law.

Police essentially ignored a second order to stop enforcing the law issued in June 2005.

It was only after the plaintiffs — half a dozen people who were unlawfully arrested or charged for panhandling or loitering — asked in December [2006] that the department be held in contempt that the Police Department “turned their behavior around,” Judge Scheindlin wrote.

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(An original plaintiff in the case, a longtime panhandler named Eddie Wise, accepted a $100,000 settlement from the city last year, after repeated illegal arrests.)

Before December, the judge wrote, the department had effectively been in contempt: It went through the motions of correcting the pattern of unlawful arrests but had a “flippant attitude” about its continuing violation of the 2005 order.

While blaming the state legislature for failing to repeal the unenforceable law, NYPD has finally made the effort to remind officers that it isn't legal to arrest people for being poor or homeless, or for exercising their free speech rights.

Judge Scheindlin also said the court would start monitoring the department’s efforts, and their effectiveness, every two months.
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