Can you be arrested for simply walking into an apartment building's vestibule? The NYPD certainly thinks so. As the federal stop-and-frisk trial continues, Inspector Kerry Sweet, the executive officer of the department's Legal Bureau testified yesterday that "A vestibule of a building, the outer area of a building, is still private property and therefore an arrest would be proper."
Bronx DA bureau chief Jeannette Rucker, who drafted a letter to the NYPD this summer notifying the department that her office would decline to prosecute trespassing cases in public housing units unless the arresting officer submitted to an interview, disagreed. “Everyone has the right to go to buzz in,” Rucker testified on Tuesday, noting that she clarified to her prosecutors that defendants had to cross into the hallway in order to be considered trespassing.
In his testimony yesterday, Sweet said he was "surprised" by the content of Rucker's letter. “I had met with the group of district attorneys (including Rucker) earlier in July and none of the concerns raised in the letter were discussed at that time," he testified, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Though admitting that he agreed with some of Rucker's improvements, and that they had been incorporated into new training, Sweet believes that Rucker is indecisive, based on their work together to create a uniform standard for vertical patrols. ”She tends to change her mind quite frequently…It's difficult to keep up with her changes."
We met Sweet this summer, when the NYPD demonstrated their stop-and-frisk training for the media. The training scenarios did not include instances in which officers stopped citizens for "furtive movements," the reason for a stop cited in more than half of the 601,055 stops conducted in 2011.
The training also does not incorporate a directive issued by Commissioner Ray Kelly in 2011 that directs officers to stop arresting citizens (mostly young men of color) for small amounts of marijuana found on their person during stops, per New York State law. "We enforce the law as it is," Sweet said at the time.