ACLU challenges Skid Row stops

first_img 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! A campaign by police to reduce crime on Skid Row is being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, which claims officers unfairly detain and search homeless people. More than a dozen homeless people have testified they were mistreated and had their civil rights violated during police searches. Paul Johnson, who has lived on Skid Row for 10 years, wrote in a declaration that he was detained because there was a warrant for a man with the same name. The officer who took Johnson into custody could not say why he stopped and questioned him. The ACLU wants to extend a court injunction limiting police officers’ ability to search Skid Row residents. Four years ago, it successfully blocked Police Chief William Bratton’s earlier plan to clean up the 50-square block area south of downtown with an ordinance banning overnight street camping. The most recent campaign, called the “Safer City Initiative,” seeks to reduce crime by aggressively policing the streets. More than 50 officers have patrolled the area since last fall. Police say crime has dropped since they stepped up their efforts and the number of homeless people sleeping on the streets, estimated at 1,800 in September, has declined to about 800. The ACLU claims a common practice for police is to stop people, question them about their parole or probation status, and often handcuff and search them without any reasonable suspicion of a crime. “The police aren’t obeying the law. They don’t seem to know the law,” said Carol Sobel, one of the civil rights attorney handling the case. The people police stopped “happened to be poor. They happened to be the homeless,” Sobel said. last_img