It stems from a tactic that allows them to question people in the hallways of their own buildings.
"You get to the point you don't feel like a human being," said Jacqueline Yates, a plaintiff.
Jacqueline Yates is one of a dozen New Yorkers who filed a class action lawsuit against the city.
The plaintiffs claim the tactics used in the NYPD's "Operation Clean Halls" program which grants police officers access to thousands of private apartment buildings are unconstitutional.
"The NYPD is using 'Operation Clean Halls' as an excuse to stop, question, frisk, detain and even arrest innocent people, including residents of the buildings," said Alexis Karteron, NYCLU.
Tenants told story after story of visiting friends and relatives arrested for trespassing; of sons and daughters harassed during a simple trip to the corner store; of missed days at work to fight false charges in court.
"My sister doesn't come to visit any more just because she is afraid of being harassed and being arrested just for coming to visit," said Fawn Bracy, a plaintiff.
"This will erode and continues to erode the confidence blacks and Latinos have in the police, the courts and the entire criminal justice system," said Juan Cartagena, Latino Justice, PRLDEF.
Police have access to the private buildings through written agreements with the landlords, agreements that could be rescinded.
"But remember, the permission itself does not give the police department nor could it the right to violate people's rights day in and day out," said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director.
"I would suspect that probably the attorneys in this case live in buildings with doormen and they have a level of safety that people who live in tenements, which most of those buildings are, don't have," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
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