Constitutional Law

Allegedly Frisked Attorney Sues Over NY Taxi-Search Policy

  • Print.

An attorney allegedly frisked by the New York police under a policy that he says officers use to illegally search taxi passengers under the guise of checking on driver safety has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Munir Pujara and another plaintiff, who works as a radio station manager, contend in their complaint that authorities are using the Taxi/Livery Inspection Program, in which vehicles volunteered for such searches bear a special sticker, to target minority passengers, reports the New York Post. It was filed in federal court in Manhattan.

“It’s just another disturbing example of the NYPD’s campaign of excessive and racially lopsided policing,” says Donna Lieberman, who serves as executive director of the ACLU chapter in New York.

The city law department declined to comment, indicating that it had not yet been served with the complaint.

Pujara, 37, who lives in Harlem and works in the Bronx, says the taxi in which he was riding was pulled over in September by two police officers. They threatened to arrest him if he didn’t exit the vehicle, even though the driver said he wasn’t concerned about his safety, according to the Daily Politics page of the New York Daily News provides a link to the complaint (PDF).

Then they allegedly frisked him. When Pujara argued that this wasn’t legal, they pointed to the sticker on the cab, the suit says.

“Nothing about the program, however, can or does authorize officers to detain, question, frisk or search passengers without independent suspicion of wrongdoing,” it states. “Nonetheless, the NYPD has a practice of doing so, with officers apparently believing that driver participation in the program means that passengers consent to this treatment.”

A police department spokesman says the program saves lives, the newspaper reports.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.