NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York City will drop a challenge to a law making it easier to bring racial profiling cases against the police, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday, furthering his pledge to change the city’s approach to policing.
De Blasio’s decision to drop predecessor Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s lawsuit over the measure comes about a month after the new mayor also withdrew Bloomberg’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that found police discriminated against minorities in the use of the stop-and-frisk tactic.
De Blasio had long signaled both legal moves. He campaigned on promises to improve relations between police and residents, particularly minorities.
“There is absolutely no contradiction in protecting the public safety of New Yorkers and respecting their civil liberties,” de Blasio said in a statement. “In fact, those two priorities must go hand-in-hand.”
The anti-profiling law eases some legal standards for claims that stop-and-frisk or other techniques were used in a biased way. The suits could seek only policy changes, not money.
The law reflected concerns about the New York Police Department’s use of stop-and-frisk and its surveillance of Muslims. The spying was disclosed in stories by The Associated Press.
The City Council passed the law last summer over a veto from Bloomberg, who said it would ensnare police in second-guessing and lawsuits. He then sued the council, and police unions joined the fight.
“This helps us move the conversation forward,” New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams said on Wednesday afternoon.
He and fellow councilman Brad Lander sponsored the anti-profiling measure.
“This bill got caught up in a lot of fear-mongering,” said Lander.
It wasn’t immediately clear how de Blasio’s decision would affect their efforts. The rank-and-file union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, filed its own suit against the law, while the Sergeants Benevolent Association joined Bloomberg’s lawsuit.
The PBA’s suit argued that the law threatened officers’ lives “because it chills their willingness to undertake law enforcement action necessary to protect their safety,” including stop-and-frisk. But the city’s chief lawyer, Zachary Carter, said Wednesday that the city would defend police officers who acted according to the department’s guidelines.
The PBA announced Wednesday evening that it will continue its lawsuit.
“Our opposition to this legislation has been and continues to be that it penalizes our members (NYC police officers) and the public rather than addressing bad policies. The administration has expressed its desire to change the policies that led to issues in our communities, eliminating the need for the law in the first place,” union president Patrick J. Lynch said in a news release. “We will continue the litigation to protect our police officers and the City from the effects of this misguided law.”
But the New York Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP applauded de Blasio for dropping the appeal.
“A safe New York is a New York where everyone is able to trust and respect the Police Department,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement. “That can’t happen unless all New Yorkers are treated equally — with courtesy, professionalism and respect. The ban on racial profiling is an important step in that direction, and the de Blasio administration should be applauded for recognizing that.”
“This is a victory for the people of New York City and confirmation of Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to ending racial profiling by the NYPD,” New York NAACP President Hazel Dukes added.
Meanwhile, the city is working toward a settlement with civil liberties groups that brought a federal lawsuit challenging the stop-and-frisk practice. The judge in that case ordered a court-appointed monitor and other changes. Police unions asked to take over the city’s appeal, saying the finding of discrimination unfairly tainted the nation’s biggest police force.
The appeals court refused to let the unions continue the appeal but said they could take the request to a lower-court judge.
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