Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York (DIA) v. The City of New York
Disability Rights Advocates filed a class action lawsuit against the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the City of New York in October 2016 on behalf of four individual plaintiffs who were unable to get into NYPD precinct stations to make crime reports, attend community safety meetings, or otherwise access the services provided at stations throughout the five boroughs. Two disability rights organizations, Disabled In Action and Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, are also plaintiffs in the suit.
Individuals can go to precinct stations to seek refuge when they feel unsafe, file police reports, attend community affairs such as crime prevention programs and neighborhood watch meetings, and take advantage of other services like anonymous pill drop-offs and trading in guns for monetary incentives. Yet, the people with mobility disabilities are regularly confronted with insurmountable steps at entrances and no reasonable alternatives for entry. They encounter lifts that are regularly broken or have missing keys necessary for operation, unmarked and unsafe alternate routes, front desks that they cannot see over, and bathrooms that are too small for a wheelchair. Due to these barriers, persons with mobility disabilities are systemically denied equal access to NYC’s police stations and the localized benefits that they offer to the community.
In February 2020, a federal judge issued a major ruling holding that the NYPD is liable for discrimination against people with disabilities due to the extensive inaccessibility of its precinct stations and the lack of sufficient accommodations to otherwise address these barriers.
“In the thirty years since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (‘ADA’) the City of New York and NYC Police Department (‘NYPD‘) have made little progress eliminating physical barriers to access to NYPD’s police stations,” wrote U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni of the Southern District of New York in her ruling. “Plaintiffs have now shown that those barriers are not merely theoretical or technical—they have actually prevented individuals with mobility disabilities from accessing the benefits of services provided from stations.”
The parties will next move toward crafting a remedial plan to ensure individuals with mobility disabilities are afforded access to the benefits of NYPD’s Neighborhood Policing program and other services.