Advocates call for investigation of NYPD treatment of homeless

Photo: Jeff Stein

A coalition of homelessness advocates and homeless individuals gathered on the steps of City Hall on Monday to call for a “formal investigation and review into the NYPD’s policing and treatment of homeless New Yorkers.”

Members of the nonprofit organization Picture the Homeless gathered to publicize an open letter to NYPD Inspector General Philip Eure, which cites police orders for homeless people to vacate public spaces, as well as the confiscation and destruction of personal belongings, as grounds to open a formal inquiry. The letter, penned by the advocacy group Communities United for Police Reform, is co-signed by over 50 local and national advocacy groups, including the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Legal Aid Society.

“Over the past two years and especially the past several months, a number of documented incidents and reports, together with pronouncements by top government officials, raise serious concerns about whether homeless people in the city are being targeted with abusive and discriminatory treatment by the NYPD – simply due to their housing status,” the letter states. 

“Homeless New Yorkers are entitled to the same rights as any other resident of the city, but some accounts appear to indicate that police have participated in activity violating that notion,” the letter continues.

In particular, the letter references police action in East Harlem in which several homeless New Yorkers had personal property seized and discarded into a Department of Sanitation truck during a September raid. That incident, which was captured on video, is the subject of a notice of claim and could lead to a lawsuit against the city.

The letter also denounces the de Blasio administration’s public efforts to dismantle homeless encampments, “a policy and practice opposed by the U.S. Justice Department in a legal filing,” according to advocates. In his December announcement of the city’s retooled efforts to combat street homelessness – dubbed HOME-STAT to mirror NYPD’s longstanding CompStat system – Mayor Bill de Blasio touted the clearing of 30 homeless encampments, a line that garnered uneasy applause.

At Monday’s press gathering, advocates spoke out against the criminalization of street homelessness, which they say is forbidden by the Community Safety Act, as well as other federal and international laws.   

“Being homeless is not a crime, but the NYPD’s targeting of homeless people for law enforcement action when they aren’t violating the law and destroying property – that is a crime,” said Nahal Zamani, an advocacy program manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights. 

“Homeless people are entitled to be in public just like any other New Yorker. Homeless people should not be targeted for their presence based on the presumption of their housing status. The NYPD’s action on 125th Street and across this city clearly contravene a growing international consensus that criminalization of homelessness is a crime and it violates international laws, as well as domestic laws.”

James Doctor, a street homeless man, spoke out against NYPD action. (Photo: Jeff Stein)

James Doctor, a homeless man who says he was a victim of the NYPD’s action on 125th Street, described to New York Nonprofit Media racing back to his belongings and missing the destruction of his few personal possessions, including important identifying documents, by minutes.

“By the time I got there, they threw all of my property in the back of a garbage truck,” Doctor said. “A friend of mine was trying to tell them to give me time to come from two blocks away and retrieve my property. My birth certificate, my Social Security card, ID, everything of mine – my clothing – all personal items thrown in the garbage truck.”

After several months of hardship, Doctor said that he was still trying to replace those documents. He also said that the fiasco has underscored a belief that local government has stacked the deck against those who need help the most.

“You tell me I’m medically sick and I can’t work no more, but you don’t want to give me no benefits to help me take care of myself. But you don’t need no ID, nothing like that – all you do is run my fingerprints and I tell you my Social Security number and you know that’s the person to lock up,” Doctor said. 

He also claimed that the relationship between the NYPD and the street homeless community has continued to deteriorate in light of recent events.

“I see it on the regular – I’m out there every day – how they look down on the homeless. We might as well be dog poop that you stepped in that you’re trying to scrape off of your shoe, because that’s how they look at us.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.