NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York City police are violating homeless people’s rights by ordering them to “move along” in public places, according to a civil liberties group.
The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the city’s Human Rights Commission Thursday on behalf of an organization called Picture the Homeless. It’s calling police actions “biased-based profiling,” which is prohibited under the Community Safety Act passed in 2013.
The NYCLU said the act ensures “the NYPD relies on a person’s actions to make law enforcement decisions, rather than factors like race or housing status.”
WEB EXTRA: Read The Complaint
Police in East Harlem have been targeting homeless people and forcing them to move from streets, sidewalks and other public spaces, according to the complaint.
“They target people not for doing something unlawful, but for being homeless, for standing or sitting in a public place,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman told 1010 WINS.
Those who refuse to obey the orders are threatened with arrest, even though they’re not breaking the law, or told their belongings will be thrown, according to the complaint.
It also says the neighborhood lacks drop-in centers that homeless people could use to get off the streets.
“Homelessness is a tragedy not a crime, and homeless New Yorkers need housing and social services not police intimidation,” stated Lieberman. “Targeting homeless people for standing on a public street won’t solve any problems and sends the wrong message about how we should treat vulnerable New Yorkers.”
The mayor’s office says the city “respects the rights of our homeless New Yorkers” and has a “comprehensive plan to reduce homelessness.” It says it will review the complaint.
Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Spokesman Seth Hoy says the Human Rights Commission “does not comment on complaints or open investigations.”
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