The Stop-and-Frisk Issue Isn’t Completely Resolved Yet

The New York Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk program appeared to have been all but resolved on January 30, when New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced that the city would drop its appeal against an August 2013 ruling that deemed the program unconstitutional.  But the battle isn’t over yet.

As De Blasio had promised during his campaign, the city is prepared to extensively reform the stop-and-frisk practices of the NYPD as per the recommendations of Judge Shira. A. Schiendlin. These recommendations include on-body cameras to be worn by police officers and a court-appointed monitor to oversee the NYPD’s functioning for three years.

However, the police unions filed court papers on Friday that block the settlement proposed by De Blasio. The papers target last year’s rulings by Judge Schiendlin, who has since been dismissed from the case for being perceived as biased. She was replaced by a new judge, Analisa Torres, but Friday’s petition by five police unions representing patrolmen, detectives, lieutenants, captains and sergeants ensures that Torres’ involvement is delayed by at least another week.

The police unions have petitioned for the case to remain in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that Schiendlin’s ruling leaves in place findings that “unfairly besmirch the reputations of the men and women of the NYPD.”

The plaintiffs in the two lawsuits against the city – Floyd v City of New York and Ligon v City of New York – have until Feb 14 to respond to the papers filed by the unions.

“It does slow down the reform process,” said Chauniqua Young of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Young, who is counsel for the plaintiffs in the Floyd v City of New York case, says that the delays are unnecessary at a point where the plaintiffs and the city are finally on the same page.

The court will now have two decisions to make when the plaintiffs file their response on the 14th:

Firstly, it must decide whether the unions will be allowed to intervene and prosecute the case instead of the city, which plans to drop it.

Secondly, it must also decide whether to keep the case in the Second Circuit as Friday’s papers requested, or to send it back down to the district court where it can be settled.

“I’m not opposed to agreements, but if there’s going to be an agreement in the court as part of a consent decree, the unions should have a standing and should be part of any negotiations,” said Michael Palladino, the president of the Detective Endowment Association, one of the unions intervening in the case.

But for legal observers and various interest groups outside the case, intervention by the unions seems neither possible nor legal. Robert Gangi, director of the Urban Justice Center’s Police Reform Organizing Project said in a telephone interview that he doesn’t think the steps the unions are planning to take have much legal merit from the standpoint of the law.

“The settlement that de Blasio and (Police Commissioner William) Bratton announced the other day is going to move forward and there’s going to be a significant rollback of the stop-and-frisk no matter what the PBA (Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, one of the leading police unions) says or does,” Gangi said.

However, Gangi also added that there are several issues that the PBA and Commissioner Bratton, who has advocated stop-and-frisk reform, can come together on. Both agree, for example, agree that the curtailment or elimination of the quota system, which requires officers to make a certain number of arrests a month to avoid sanctions being placed on them, must go.

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