In a win for city activists, the Manhattan District Attorney and NYPD have tossed a controversial policy that allowed police lawyers to prosecute protest arrest cases with the goal of limiting lawsuit liability.
The backpedaling came days after lawmakers sent a hard-charging letter to DA Cy Vance Jr. blasting his office’s February 2016 order which authorized the police department’s Legal Bureau to play prosecutor in summons cases.
Typically, there isn’t a prosecutor in summons court so the addition of one was considered a bullying tactic and a disadvantage to select defendants in small-time public rally busts.
Attorneys for the department insisted on Black Lives Matter rally participants admitting wrongdoing in exchange for standard dismissal deals.
Admissions of that sort are not typically required in criminal court settlements known as adjournments in contemplation of dismissal or ACDs.
Normally, a defendant’s case will be dismissed and sealed after six months of good behavior without the individual admitting to anything — but police attorneys wanted the people they flagged to concede there was probable cause to make an arrest with the hope it would fend off civil claims.
In all, the NYPD handled 38 cases since the agreement went into effect.
Vance’s office notified New York State Assemblyman Dan Quart and other reps of its decision on Friday.
“Over the past several years, DA Vance has ended the criminal prosecution of tens of thousands of low-level cases and believes that summons matters are best handled by a judge or judicial hearing officer, so that limited prosecutorial resources are not expended on minor offenses,” wrote Joan Vollero, Vance’s senior advisor for intergovernmental affairs and public policy.
Activists and their advocates believed the policy was a threat to the First Amendment rights of demonstrators.
Two Back Lives Matter participants arrested in 2016 whose trials were handled by NYPD lawyers filed a lawsuit which is pending in Manhattan Supreme Court.