An amazing lawsuit was filed in New York last week. It seems Mike Bloomberg’s notorious "stop-and-frisk" policy – known colloquially in these parts by silently-cheering white voters as the "Let’s have cops feel up any nonwhite person caught walking in the wrong neighborhood” policy – isn’t even the most repressive search policy in the NYPD arsenal.
Bloomberg, that great crossover Republican, has long been celebrated by the Upper West Side bourgeoisie for his enlightened views on gay rights and the environment, but also targeted for criticism by civil rights activists because of stop-and-frisk, a program that led to a record 684,330 street searches just last year.
Now he’s under fire for a program he inherited, which goes by the darkly Bushian name of the "Clean Halls program." In effect since 1991, it allows police to execute so-called "vertical patrols" by going up into private buildings and conducting stop-and-frisk searches in hallways – with the landlord’s permission.
According to the NYCLU, which filed the suit, "virtually every private apartment building [in the Bronx] is enrolled in the program," and "in Manhattan alone, there are at least 3,895 Clean Halls Buildings." Referring to the NYPD’s own data, the complaint says police conducted 240,000 "vertical patrols" in the year 2003 alone.
If you live in a Clean Halls building, you can’t even go out to take out the trash without carrying an ID – and even that might not be enough. If you go out for any reason, there may be police in the hallways, demanding that you explain yourself, and insisting, in brazenly illegal and unconstitutional fashion, on searches of your person.
The easiest way to convey the full insanity of this program is to simply read stories from the complaint. MORE...