WASHINGTON - Following a three-judge U.S. Court of Appeals panel's unanimous decision last year declaring the District of Columbia’s military-style checkpoint program to be unconstitutional, the District entered into a final settlement with the D.C. residents who filed the lawsuit in 2008 to strike down the program.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund represented the plaintiffs and filed the successful lawsuit challenging the so-called "Neighborhood Safety Zone" program whereby police could surround a targeted neighborhood, interrogate people without suspicion, and prohibit entry to those persons who lack a police-defined "legitimate reason" for driving into the neighborhood.
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the PCJF characterized the outcome of the lawsuit as one of the most important civil rights victories in recent years. Plaintiffs and their attorneys had asserted that if the program had been allowed to stand in D.C., military-style checkpoints in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods would have become a law enforcement model throughout the country.
“The D.C. Circuit firmly rejected the police's extraordinary seizure and interrogation barricade program as unconstitutional. This program, which allowed police to seal neighborhoods, conduct suspicionless seizures and questioning of people, and prohibit travel on public roadways, was not only unconstitutional but it was ineffective in addressing the deep needs of D.C.'s communities,” stated Verheyden-Hilliard.
The District of Columbia has fully rescinded the authorizing order for the "Neighborhood Safety Zone" program" and has filed those rescission papers with the Court. The Settlement Agreement further requires that the data collected by the police on all the individuals who were stopped and questioned during the checkpoint operations be expunged, including from police databases, sealed, and then destroyed.
The Settlement also provides $3,500 to each of three plaintiffs and provides for legal fees.
To see a copy of the Court of Appeals decision, click here.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) is a not-for-profit legal and educational organization which, among other things, seeks to ensure government transparency in operations and constitutional accountability within police practices. The PCJF won a unanimous ruling at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals finding the MPD's unprecedented military-style police checkpoint program unconstitutional. It is counsel on the Barham and Becker class action cases in which more than 1,000 persons were falsely arrested during protests in Washington, D.C., resulting in settlements totaling $22 million. The PCJF previously uncovered and disclosed that the D.C. police employed an unlawful domestic spying and agent provocateur program in which officers were sent on long-term assignments posing as political activists and infiltrated lawful and peaceful groups.