NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration filed court papers Thursday seeking to drop an appeal of a judge’s decision ordering major reforms to the police department’s stop-and-frisk policy.
The papers filed in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said the city was seeking to return the case to a lower court for 45 days “for the purpose of exploring a full resolution.”
De Blasio said the city has agreed to the appointment of a monitor for three years to oversee the creation of reforms aimed at ending discrimination. The monitor will oversee a process in which those communities most affected by the stop-and-frisk tactics will provide input on the reforms.
The mayor said the move is a major step in resolving a years-long battle over the policy.
“We are doing it through a collective commitment to fix the fundamental problems that enabled stop-and-frisk to grow out of control and violate the rights of innocent New Yorkers,” de Blasio said.
A judge ruled last year that the New York Police Department had discriminated against blacks and Hispanics with how it went about stopping, questioning and sometimes frisking people on the street. The judge ordered major reforms to the department’s implementation of the policy.
Bloomberg was a staunch advocate of the policy. Stops had soared to more than 5 million over the past decade, mostly of black and Hispanic men. About 10 percent of the stops resulted in arrests or summonses, and weapons were found about 2 percent of the time.
Four men sued the department in 2008, saying they were unfairly targeted because of their race. U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin presided over a 10-week bench trial where she heard testimony from a dozen New Yorkers who said they were wrongly stopped. She agreed and imposed a court-appointed monitor to oversee reforms, but her ruling has been on hold pending the appeal.
The federal appeals court also took the unusual step of removing Scheindlin from the case, saying she misapplied a related ruling that allowed her to take it to begin with and had spoken inappropriately about the case in public.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Jonathan Moore said the city’s decision to drop the appeal “vindicates the findings by Judge Scheindlin and provides the opportunity for the NYPD to reform policies and practices that the district court found unconstitutional.”
De Blasio and his new police commissioner, William Bratton, have said the policy has created a rift among New Yorkers who don’t trust police, and it’s made morale low for officers who should be praised for stellar efforts reducing crime to record lows.
As WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported, the reforms can’t come quick enough for Commissioner Bratton.
“Instead of securing confidence, instead of securing legitimacy in procedural justice, it instead has raised doubts and concerns about the police force,” Bratton said. “As I need to, as police commissioner, be in a position to say to my officers ‘this is how you police constitutionally, this is how you police respectfully, this is how you police compassionately and that these are the guardrails that you have to stay within.'”
Bratton said he has already begun looking into having police officers wear body cameras to make video recordings of their stops and interaction with the public, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
“American policing in its totality is moving very quickly in that direction,” Bratton said. “As recently as yesterday I met with people in my office looking at where it is currently being experimented with in the Los Angeles Police Department. It has been embraced by American policing.”
Police unions have objected to the cameras. A spokesman said they are considering their next steps, which could include seeking to intervene and carry out the appeal, Kramer reported.
The mayor said the decision to drop the stop-and-frisk appeal will help unite the city, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported. “We believe in one city, where everyone rises together. We believe in respecting every New Yorkers’ rights, regardless of what neighborhood they live in, or the color of their skin,” de Blasio said.
The stop-and-frisk tactic itself was not ruled unconstitutional; rather the way the department was using it violated civil rights, the judge said.
“Today is the beginning of a long-overdue process: the reform of the NYPD to end illegal and racially discriminatory policing,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director Vincent Warren. “For too long, communities of color have felt under siege by the police, and young Black and Latino men have disproportionately been the target. We are glad to have reached an agreement with the City and commend Mayor de Blasio for promising to drop the appeal and embracing reform. We are eager to finally begin creating real change.”
Police Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said the PBA continues to have serious concerns about how the decision to drop the appeal will impact its members.
“Our goal is to continue to be involved in the process in order to give voice to our members and to make every effort to ensure that their rights are protected,” Lynch said.
Robert Gangi, the Director of the Police Reform Organizing Project at the Urban Justice Center, released a statement Thursday applauding de Blasio for fulfilling his campaign pledge on stop-and-frisk policy.
“The quality of daily life for many New Yorkers, especially low-income, young black and Latino men who were the main targets of this discredited practice, should improve significantly,” Gangi said. “The main responsibility now of police reformers is to monitor the implementation of the settlement to assure that it translates into better practices on the ground.”
City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez said a healing process can now begin for the communities most severely affected by the “unconstitutional practice.”
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