NEW YORK – New York City's new mayor on Thursday delivered on his promise to reform stop-and-frisk police tactics, requesting to drop an appeal of a federal judge's order requiring reforms and reaching a deal that was praised by those who sued the city over discrimination claims.
Lawyers for Mayor Bill de Blasio asked the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court to send an appeal to the lower court "for the purpose of exploring a full resolution."
"The City of New York will officially drop its reform in this case," de Blasio said. "This will be one city where everyone rises together, where everyone's rights are protected."
Lawyers for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented plaintiffs in the court actions, said the deal calls for a monitor to oversee reforms for three years. The monitor will oversee a process in which those communities most affected by the stop-and-frisk tactics will provide input into reforms.
"Today is the beginning of a long-overdue process: the reform of the NYPD to end illegal and racially discriminatory policing," said Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
"For too long, communities of color have felt under siege by the police, and young Black and Latino men have disproportionately been the target," he said in a news release. "We are eager to finally begin creating real change."
Attorney Darius Charney said the center looks "forward to working with the communities directly affected on the streets every day to come up with solutions that protect the rights of all New Yorkers."
A judge ruled last year that the New York Police Department had discriminated against blacks and Hispanics when stopping, questioning and sometimes frisking people on the street. The judge ordered major reforms to the department's implementation of the policy.
Then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg appealed the decision. But de Blasio, who took office at the beginning of the year, is now seeking to drop the appeal.
Bloomberg was a staunch advocate of the policy and his administration appealed the decision. Stops had soared under his 12-year tenure to more than 5 million in the past decade, mostly of black and Hispanic men. About 10 percent of the stops result 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 in which 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 accept it to begin with and had inappropriately spoken publically about the case.
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.
The stop-and-frisk tactic itself was not ruled unconstitutional; rather the way the department was using it violated civil rights, the judge said.