A federal appeals court shot down the police unions’ attempt to block the city’s settlement of the “stop and frisk” case against the NYPD on Friday, the last roadblock to Mayor de Blasio’s bid to overhaul use of the controversial police tactic.
The unanimous Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling also allows the city to drop its appeal of rulings by Manhattan Federal Court Judge Shira Scheindlin that the NYPD unconstitutionally discriminated against minorities with the stops, and allows many of her recommended widespread reforms of the controversial practice to move forward.
“Now, after the unions’ unnecessary obstructionism, all New Yorkers can work together to end racially discriminatory policing and bring meaningful reform and accountability to the NYPD,” said Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented many of the plaintiffs in the case.
The city’s top lawyer, Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter, said the decision “clears the way for the implementation of the remedial measures to which the city agreed as part of the stop and frisk litigation.”
The ruling leaves the unions with only longshot legal options to block the move, including petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court.
Roy Richter of the captains’ union said, “I am very disappointed with the decision,” was reviewing it with lawyers to “determine our options.”
Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association head Patrick Lynch sounded more resigned. “The PBA will continue to monitor the actions taken in this process moving forward to ensure that they do not violate the rights of NYC police officers,” he said in a statement.
Fulfilling his campaign vow to overhaul the NYPD’s use of stop and frisk, de Blasio announced he’d reached a settlement with the plaintiffs – blacks and Hispanics who said they’d been unfairly targeted for stops by the NYPD – back in March.
The 2013 rulings by Scheindlin had been hotly contested by the Bloomberg Administration, and the police unions sought to intervene after it became clear frisk foe de Blasio would succeed him in City Hall.
In their ruling Friday, the three judge panel found the unions had waited too long to try to get involved.
“The unions knew, or should have known, of their alleged interests in these controversial and public cases will before they filed their motions in September 2013,” the ruling says.
The judges added that the bitterly fought case had hardly been a secret.
“For years now, ‘stop and frisk’ has been the subject of extensive public filings and intense media scrutiny. Whatever the merit of the unions’ claim that Judge Scheindlin’s rulings were incorrectly premised ‘upon statistical evidence purporting to place 4.4 million stops at issue,’ allowing the unions to revive a now settled dispute by intervening at this late juncture would substantially prejudice the existing parties and unduly encroach upon the city’s inherent discretion to settle a dispute against it,” the ruling said.
The Second Circuit ruling send the case back to Judge Analisa Torres – who got the case after the same appeals court judges booted Scheindlin for having the appearance of a conflict in the case – to implement the settlement.
The deal calls for numerous reforms, including the appointment of independent monitor, a test program of using body cameras in some precincts, and when police should make stops.
Another of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Jonathan Moore, said “The Court correctly held that unions have no real interest in this case and that the City’s decision to abide by a court order and the will of the people should be respected. We look forward to working with the City and a variety of invited stakeholders – including the Unions – to craft substantive remedies to decades of unconstitutional policing.”