Homeless advocates sue city of Los Angeles

The Associated Press
Wednesday November 22, 2000

LOS ANGELES — Advocates for the homeless have sued the city of Los Angeles, Police Chief Bernard C. Parks and the commander of the police department’s Central Division to stop the department’s recent practice of strictly enforcing loitering and other laws in the skid row area. 

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court late Monday, says the Los Angeles Police Department’s practice of citing the homeless in skid row for minor offenses is unconstitutional and amounts to harassment. 

The lawsuit contends that the possessions of numerous homeless people who were stopped for questioning by officers were seized and destroyed.  

Some homeless people were threatened with arrest if they objected, the suit says. 

Since September, the commander of the Central Division, Capt. Stuart Maislin, has ordered his officers to cite the homeless for blocking the sidewalk and jaywalking. Officers have also been rousing the homeless early in the morning, asking for identification and arresting people with outstanding warrants. 

In parts of skid row, a 50-block area east and south of downtown, entire streets have been cleared of vagrants. 

A recent increase in violent crime in skid row caused Maislin to change the division’s practice of generally ignoring the homeless, the Los Angeles Times reported.  

Violent crime has decreased since then, Maislin said. 

A spokesman for the Police Department declined comment to the Times late Monday on the suit. 

Attorney Carol A. Sobel of Santa Monica, one of several civil rights lawyers who prepared the suit, said papers would be filed Tuesday in an attempt to secure a temporary restraining order.