Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

City of Los Angeles Settles Suit with ACLU over Policing Practices on Skid Row

A lawsuit over policing practices in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles was dismissed in February 2009 when the City defendants and the ACLU stipulated to the terms of a Settlement Agreement under which the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) agreed to train its officers to conduct searches of homeless Skid Row residents in ways that are not arbitrary, capricious, or harassing.

The action was filed by the ACLU of Southern California in March 2003. In October 2003, the parties entered into a settlement, which included the entry of a permanent injunction by the district court. In September 2006, one month before the injunction was set to expire, the City of Los Angeles announced plans to increase the police presence on Skid Row by launching the Skid Row Safer Cities Initiative. That announcement triggered renewed negotiations between the City and the ACLU regarding police treatment of the homeless on Skid Row.

Under the terms of the Settlement Agreement, the LAPD agreed, inter alia, that (1) a search incident to arrest is not generally permitted when a person is merely cited and released in the field for an infraction or misdemeanor (such as sleeping on the sidewalk or jaywalking); (2) a protective frisk for weapons requires (at a minimum) reasonable suspicion that the person is armed or dangerous; (3) handcuffing of a subject is not generally appropriate absent reasonable suspicion that a subject poses some sort of physical threat, may destroy evidence, flee, or otherwise interfere with an officer’s legitimate investigation; (4) a warrant check on a detained subject is permissible, but only for the time reasonably required to complete the check; (5) a suspicionless search of a parolee is permissible, but only if the subject’s parole status is known beforehand; and (6) the search of a probationer requires (a) knowledge not only of the subject’s probation status but also of the fact that a search condition is one of the subject’s term of probation and (b) reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or a probation violation. See: Fitzgerald v. City of Los Angeles, U.S.D.C. (C.D. Cal.), Case No.: 2:03-cv-01876-DDP-RZ.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Fitzgerald v. City of Los Angeles