Civil Rights

‘Monell’ claim against NYPD’s mass arrest policies upheld

Nearly four years ago, R.J. Osterhoudt was unlawfully arrested in Williamsburg during a spontaneous street celebration of Barack Obama’s election as president. Rankin & Taylor represented Osterhoudt in criminal court, resulting in dismissal of the charges after 11 court appearances.


Now, in his civil rights lawsuit, a Brooklyn federal judge has ruled (link to decision)  it is plausible that the NYPD’s practices of mass arrests at demonstrations and false swearing to cover up bad arrests caused Osterhoudt’s unlawful arrest. The case was recently featured in the New York Law Journal (pay site).

Osterhoudt Video

 Video courtesy of YouTube


As described by Judge Raymond J. Dearie of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York:


On election night in November 2008, enthusiastic crowds gathered in the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn to await the election results. Plaintiff R.J. Osterhoudt and his roommate had just arrived when they allegedly saw NYPD officers picking fights and indiscriminately arresting bystanders. Plaintiff, swept up in the mass arrests, was charged with obstructing government administration, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct and detained for 17 hours before his charges were adjourned in contemplation of dismissal. Plaintiff sues them officers and City under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he was unlawfully arrested as part of the NYPD’s custom of sweeping up arrestees at demonstrations without making individualized determinations of probable cause. To prop up these bad arrests, the NYPD, according to plaintiff, customarily encourages officers to swear false criminal complaints and discourages honest officers from reporting misconduct.


In support of his allegations that the NYPD routinely sweeps up innocent people at demonstrations, Osterhoudt pointed to illegal mass arrests at the 2004 Republican National Convention, Critical Mass bike rides and protests against the World Economic Forum. The City moved to dismiss the claim. They lost, and the case is now proceeding.