The New NY Handschu Guidelines: Balancing the Constitution and Security Concerns

Production Date: November 06, 2017 Practice Areas: Criminal Law and Civil Rights Estimated Length: 4894 minutes

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The Handschu Guidelines are a set of rules in New York that regulate police investigations into political activity. The first guidelines were articulated in a consent decree that arose in the court case Handschu v. Special Services Division in 1985. In 2003 the NYPD requested and was given permission to adopt a new set of guidelines, which were incorporated into the NYPD Patrol Guide. One of the original Handschu provisions that was removed was the requirement for a “Handschu Authority” to approve any proposed investigations into political activity.

However, after a decade of widespread surveillance and infiltration against Muslims, multiple lawsuits were filed in 2013. The lawyers in the existing 1985 Handschu Guidelines filed a motion to reopen the Handschu case because of violations to the Guidelines that persisted since 2002.

After three years of litigation, the NYPD agreed to a proposed settlement attempting to increase limits on NYPD surveillance. In March 2017, after the Court held a fairness hearing on the proposal, it approved a new set of revised Handschu guidelines. Among the notable amendments are a requirement that terrorism investigations “not intrude upon rights of expression or association in a manner that discriminates on the basis of race religion or ethnicity.” The revised guidelines also provide for a civilian representative on a new “Handschu Committee,” which monitors, but does not authorize, investigations into political activity. This program, taught by NYC civil rights attorney Omar T. Mohammedi, will explore the Constitutional issues and controversial provisions in the Guidelines, as well as the tension between oversight of law enforcement, and the goal of protecting society from violence.


Learning Objectives:

  1. Review the history of the Handschu Guidelines, including political developments and security concerns
  2. Discuss the latest revisions of the Guidelines and what that means for civil rights and criminal defense practice in New York
  3. Identify specific types of challenges that practitioners can bring based on the Guidelines