[Hpn] JUDGE TO BAR LAPD HOMELESS ROUNDUPS - ACLU Lawsuit continues - fwd

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Sun, 3 Dec 2000 06:25:00 -0800 (PST)


http://www.aclu.org/news/2000/ may soon post a related report.

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AP's story follows the the Los Angeles Times article below:

FWD  Los Angeles Times - Saturday, December 2, 2000


Courts: Jurist releases draft of ruling in case brought by ACLU.
        Officers will be banned from seizing belongings
        and stopping people at random.


A federal judge said Friday that she plans to issue a temporary
restraining order barring police from harassing the homeless on Los
Angeles' skid row.

Officers would be prohibited from stopping homeless people at random,
demanding their identification and threatening them with arrest,
according to a draft of U.S. District Judge Lourdes G. Baird's pending

Police would also be prevented from seizing homeless people's
belongings, which are sometimes left unattended on sidewalks, and
discarding their possessions.

Baird circulated a copy of her proposed order during a court hearing
Friday attended by lawyers from the city attorney's office and the
American Civil Liberties Union.

In remarks from the bench, the judge also indicated that she would bar
the police from forcing the homeless to keep moving from place to place.

After soliciting comments from both sides, Baird said would consider
their arguments and issue a final ruling on Monday.

The ACLU filed a civil rights suit last month on behalf of 26 homeless
residents and social service workers who complained that a recently
launched crime-fighting drive in the 50-block skid row area had turned
into a campaign of harassment against the homeless.

Police officials deny those allegations.

"I don't think the homeless won today," said Lt. Paul Geggie of the
LAPD Central Division, which patrols skid row. "What's going to happen
is, it's going to be more dangerous and dirtier."

Joann Barnes, 46, who has lived on the streets of skid row for two
years, said Friday night that she didn't believe police were harassing
the homeless in the first place. "I think they are concerned about the
welfare of the people," said Barnes.

But Dominique Cholon, 41, said he was glad police would be prevented
from giving him and other homeless people tickets for blocking the
sidewalks, or from confiscating their possessions.

"They've been . . . harassing folks for little things. They might be
doing their job but they overdo it," said Cholon, who has been homeless
for four years.

In her 23-page draft, Baird wrote that she was obliged to weigh the
city's needs against the rights of the homeless.

The injunction, she said, may slow down the Police Department's
initiative to reduce crime and clean up the streets and sidewalks in skid
row. But she added that the homeless face a greater harm: loss of their
constitutional rights.

She said the police actions, unless checked, "are likely to displace
homeless individuals and threaten their ability to access charities for
food, shelter and assistance in skid row."

Douglas E. Mirell, a plaintiffs' attorney, said he was gratified by
Baird's tentative ruling. "The decision to grant a [temporary restraining
order] is particularly important at this time of the year because the
weather is getting colder and the conditions that the homeless have to
live will become much more extreme." Deputy City Atty. Deborah L.
Sanchez, who represented the police at Friday's hearing, said afterward
that Baird's tentative order would cause no substantial changes in
official department policies.

"Stopping people without reasonable suspicion or searching their
possessions without probable cause are things they're not supposed to be
doing in the first place," Sanchez said. "The only issue I would have
with the court is that the [restraining order] is unnecessary."

At the hearing, however, attorney Carol A. Sobel, representing the
ACLU, told Baird that police have been seizing homeless people's
belongings, which they must leave on the street before entering feeding

;She said the items are thrown into city trucks and discarded in
violation of a state law requiring authorities to hold on to abandoned
property for at least 90 days.

The ACLU has also asked Baird to certify the suit as a class action on
behalf of Los Angeles' entire homeless population, a move the city
attorney opposed.

Although the judge did not rule on that issue in her tentative order,
she indicated that class certification was likely.

Officials estimate about 11,000 people are living in transient hotels
and on the streets along skid row.

So far this year, at least four homeless people have been killed in
the Central Division area and 32 others were victims of rape or sex
crimes, said Geggie. About 40 homeless people are robbed, assaulted or
victimized each month, he added.

Since September, Capt. Stuart Maislin of the Central Division has
ordered his officers to cite the homeless for occupying sidewalks and
other public nuisances. Arrests, citations and drug arrests have gone up
while crime has decreased, police said.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, however, Central Division officers said they
would temporarily stop citing or warning people for blocking the
sidewalks; they also suspended the confiscation of abandoned personal

"So a community that is 50% mentally ill, a community that can only
marginally care for itself is going to be forced into the traffic because
we can no longer issue tickets for blocking sidewalks," said Geggie.

END FORWARD from Los Angeles Times

**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material
is distributed without charge or profit to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving this type of information
for non-profit research and educational purposes only.**

FWD  Associated Press - Saturday, December 2, 2000


LOS ANGELES (AP) - Police are barred from conducting roundups
and other actions against the homeless while a federal judge
reviews a civil rights lawsuit that claims officers harass Skid
Row's indigent.

U.S. District Judge Lourdes Baird on Friday outlined the
contents of the temporary restraining order. She said she would
issue a written order Monday.

In the meantime, she immediately barred police from stopping
homeless people without probable cause and searching them for
illegal substances. She also ordered them to quit ticketing the
homeless for loitering, jaywalking or blocking sidewalks.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California sued
last month on behalf of 23 homeless people and three social service
agencies. The ACLU claims the police department is violating the
plaintiffs' rights to free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom
from unreasonable searches and seizures.

The organization wants the temporary order made permanent, said
attorney Carol A. Sobel of Santa Monica, one of several lawyers who
prepared the Nov. 20 lawsuit that names Police Chief Bernard Parks
and Capt. Stuart Maislin as defendants.

Deputy City Attorney Deborah Sanchez said officers are doing
their duty to protect the public and the estimated 11,000 Skid Row
homeless from crime.

In the past year, seven people have been killed along Skid Row,
four of them homeless, Sanchez said. Detectives also are
investigating 32 sexual assaults and 40 robberies that have
occurred in the same period, Sanchez said.

A trial date will be set by Baird later this month.

AP-WS-12-01-00 2248EST
Received Id AP100336D88F44FD on Dec 02 2000 14:55


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material
is distributed without charge or profit to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving this type of information
for non-profit research and educational purposes only.**

Online see:

Report Civil Liberties Violations to your local ACLU chapter

ACLU of Southern California Web Site:
Contact Information
       Executive Director: Ramona Ripston
       1616 Beverly Blvd.
       Los Angeles, CA 90026
       Phone: (213) 977-9500

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