The city will settle a lawsuit in which three homeless men claimed police officers and sanitation workers willingly destroyed their personal property including clothing, medications, birth certificates and social security cards.
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The lawsuit — filed in 2015 by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and Picture the homeless on behalf of Floyd Parks, Jesus Morales and Timmy Hall — claimed that on Oct. 2, 2015 the three men were sleeping near a school in East Harlem when they were kicked awake and had their belongings thrown into trash compactors. The three men will be compensated by the city for the destroyed belongings, according to NYCLU lawyers.
“It is only fair that the city has agreed to compensate our clients for destroying what few possessions they had,” NYCLU Staff Attorney Jordan Wells said in a statement. “Rather than having to pay out individual claims like those of our clients, the city should move away from targeting and criminalizing the homeless.”
The NYCLU said that the city can avoid settlements in similar cases by decriminalizing homelessness and teaching police officers to treat the homeless with respect. The destruction of Parks, Morales and Hall’s property is suggestive of a “disturbing pattern” of law enforcement’s targeting of the homeless when they are not breaking any laws, the NYCLU said.
“With this settlement, we got our foot in the door. People will know how we’ve been treated and that the cops should stop kicking around and abusing homeless people,” Floyd Parks said in a statement.
The lawsuit alleged that the actions taken by police officers and sanitation workers constituted an illegal seizure of property without due process, according to documents filed in 2015 by the NYCLU.
The three men claimed they were woken up with flashlights while sleeping in a sheltered area by the Choir Academy Of Harlem — near Madison Avenue and East 127th Street. Before the men could grab their belongings and leave, sanitation workers in hazmat suits took them and placed them in a garbage truck, according to the lawsuit. The men tried to convince the officers to let them keep their belongings but were ultimately forced to watch as the items were destroyed, the NYCLU said in a statement.
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Surveillance footage from the nearby school showing the destruction of the belongings was acquired by the NYCLU:
Photo courtesy of NYCLU and source.