NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A judge’s ruling that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics are unconstitutional has created chaos and confusion among officers, a city lawyer told a federal appeals panel Tuesday.
As WCBS 880′s Irene Cornell reported, attorney Celeste Koeleveld asked the 2nd U.S. District Court of Appeals to suspend Manhattan U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin’s August ruling because police officers are now hesitant to do their jobs, which could harm public safety. The stop-and-frisk program has been credited by some for reducing crime across the city over the last decade.
Koeleveld said officers are “hesitant, unfortunately” to use the tactic anymore.
“We were happy to have our arguments heard by the Court of Appeals, and the judge is obviously taking our position very seriously,” Koeleveld said after the hearing. “And we believe that it’s important for a stay to be granted in this case, as we argued upstairs and in our papers, because the court should review this decision before the city’s required to do anything.”
Attorney Daniel Connolly appeared on behalf of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey. He told judges that officers were “defensive, passive and scared” after Scheindlin’s ruling. The appeals court did not immediately rule on the stay request.
“This decision is bad law,” he said. “No one counts on federal judges to keep us safe on the streets.”
Attorney Courtney Saleski, arguing on behalf of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, noted that stop and frisks were down 50 percent in the first six months of this year compared with a year earlier. She said officers were afraid stops violate the constitution.
“That means constitutional stops are being chilled and that’s not good for the safety of the community,” she said.
But lead plaintiffs’ attorney Darius Charney for the nonprofit legal advocate Center for Constitutional Rights noted that the drop in stop and frisks came even before the judge ruled and said it was accompanied by a drop in murders and other crimes.
And Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said it would be premature for the appeals court to stay the effect of the lower-court ruling because the police department thus far has not been required to make any changes to the program.
He said that if police officers on their own are engaging in fewer unconstitutional stops, “that’s a good thing.”
In her decision, Manhattan U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin said the NYPD was making the street stops based on race. She did not order an end to the practice, but instead appointed an independent monitor to oversee changes to the policy. Scheindlin previously denied the city’s request for a stay.
Meanwhile, the three judges on the appeals panel were weighing if politics had entered the debate, as the attorney representing Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, the front-runner in the Nov. 5 mayoral election, was among those to make oral arguments.
Judge Jose Cabranes, who noted “we all read the newspapers,” grumbled that de Blasio is dying to have the NYPD run by a district judge. But John Siegal, de Blasio’s attorney, fired back by saying the public advocate simply wants to see the federal monitor put in place immediately.
The stop and frisk tactic has been criticized by a number of civil rights advocates. More than 100 students and activists turned out at Brown University on Tuesday for a lecture by NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly on “Proactive Policing in America’s Biggest City” — and shouted him down, prompting the talk to be canceled.
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