Class action lawsuit filed against Nassau County and its police department for traffic stops
A class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of all Black and Latino drivers in Nassau County claiming local police act with racial bias when they make traffic stops. The lawsuit seeks $40 million, policy changes and a federal monitor to ensure Nassau follows through with reforms. A judge’s decision on whether to certify the lawsuit’s class action status will come later.
A similar lawsuit started eight years ago in Suffolk County that recently cost the county millions of dollars and forced Suffolk County Police Department to improve training and publish better data on how it enforces the law
“The potential outcomes would be to force Nassau to stop this discriminatory and race-based policing that's taking place, particularly with regard to car stops,” said Frederick Brewington, the civil rights lawyer who brought the lawsuit.
Neither County Executive Bruce Blakeman nor the police department responded to messages. At a hearing last year, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said his officers stop a disproportionate number of people of color because people of color come to Nassau from New York City “to commit some kind of criminal act."
“We’re going where we’re being asked to go,” Ryder said at a different hearing last November. “We spent a lot of time in Green Acres mall this year, because we were getting hit pretty hard, with a lot of larcenies and grand larcenies in the malls.”
New data posted to the county’s website this month continues to show Black and Latino drivers are stopped, searched and ticketed at much higher rates than white drivers. While Black and Latino people make up 29% of Nassau residents, they make up 61% of arrests, 50% of traffic stops, 60% of field interviews and 69% of the pat downs according to police data. White drivers get an average of 1.3 tickets per stop. Black and Latino drivers get an average of 2 and 2.1 tickets per stop, respectively.
The lawsuit was filed in November by Tivia Leith, a Black woman who says she was stopped by Nassau Police with her infant son and detained for 11 hours with no charges ever being filed. A federal judge allowed Leith to refile the lawsuit, this time as a class action.