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Protect Our Privacy: Tell Judge Charles Haight It’s Time to Rein in NYPD Spying

Ann Schneider Mar 31

April 19, the day New Yorkers will go to the polls to vote in the presidential primaries, is an important date for you to write on your calendar for another reason:  based on public comments from activists who object to NYPD spying, Judge Charles Haight will decide whether to approve a 2016 class-action settlement in Handschu vs. the Bureau of Special Services.  The settlement changes the Handschu Guidelines in significant ways, not all for the better.

But don’t delay: Tuesday, April 5 is the deadline to register your desire to comment. Send an e-mail to the Court at handschusettlement@gmail.com by 5pm April 5th. This e-mail preserves your right to comment. You will have until the date of the hearing, April 19 to inform yourself and compose your comments. The hearing is open to the public. You need not register to attend before federal Judge Charles Haight, 500 Pearl St., at 10 am.

You can learn about the proposed modifications here: http://www.nyclu.org/files/releases/Handschu_Guidelines_FINAL_PROPOSED_MODIFICATIONS.pdf

Read the Court Notice that tells you how and when to make comments here: http://www.nyclu.org/files/releases/handschu_hearing_notice_FINAL.pdf

More information on how to submit a comment at the April 19 fairness hearing. http://r2klegal.protestarchive.org/docs/Filing_Instructions_and_Helpful_Tips_on_Comments.pdf

You have the right to comment because as a political activist, you are automatically a member of the class, represented by long-time civil rights attorneys Marty Stolar, Franklin Siegel, Jed Eisenstein and Paul Chevigny.

The most recent settlement, reached in January in joint negotiations with the NYCLU and the CLEAR Project (founded in 2009 at CUNY Law School to protect Muslim, South Asian and Arab communities), is intended to:

 *Tighten standards for the initiation, renewal, and extension of investigations.

*Limit the use of intrusive investigative techniques in religious and community institutions.

             *Establish time limits for investigations, and

             *Ensure a safeguard to protect New Yorkers’ rights by reinstituting civilian, non- NYPD participation in the NYPD’s decision-making into whether investigations should be initiated, continued, or ended.

Activists from the Black Movement Law Project, Time’s Up and others organized two informational meetings this week (final session begins at 6:30 tonight, March 31 at 339 Lafayette Street) where changes from the current Handschu Guidelines were pointed out.   For example, the basis for opening a police investigation into First Amendment expressive activity would newly prohibit investigations based on race, religion or ethnicity.  The civilian appointee would be an attorney with security clearance, appointed by the Mayor to serve a five year term.  Class counsel is lobbying the City Council Public Safety Commission to make this a salaried position, in the interest of ensuring independence.

Critics and supporters of the Settlement agree that making comments is the best way to show the Court, the NYPD and the public that activists care deeply about protecting privacy.  They need to know that behind the Guidelines there is a movement that demands its rights!

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