Public Sector Alliance October 31, 2014


Appeals court blocks police unions from stop-and-frisk suit

By Azi Paybarah

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a lower court ruling that police unions in New York City cannot formally join a federal class-action lawsuit over the stop-and-frisk policing tactic.

Last year, a judge ruled the NYPD's use of stop-and-frisk violated the civil rights of New Yorkers because it unduly targeted people of color.

The decision today by the Second Circuit of Appeals in the Floyd v. City of New York case effectively allows Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to negotiate a deal with the plaintiffs, after a tentative agreement was announced in January.

The three-judge panel noted that the unions had only acted to intervene after the election of Mayor Bill de Blasio, and ruled that "granting the unions’ motions in the wake of the November 2013 mayoral election would essentially condone a collateral attack on the democratic process and could erode the legitimacy of decisions made by the democratically‐elected representatives of the people."

Legal challenges by a number of police unions, who sought a formal role in negotiations after de Blasio made clear he would drop the city's appeal, effectively halted Judge Shira Scheindlin’s ruling from being put into place.

Scheindlin ordered the department to establish a court monitor to oversee the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk for three years (followed by an additional two years of monitoring by the newly created Inspector General for the NYPD). Scheindlin also called for at least one precinct in each borough to place body cameras on police officers for at least one year.

(The NYPD later announced a pilot program where 60 officers volunteered to wear body cameras, and police commissioner Bill Bratton has aimed to have them used throughout the department.)

"Today's Second Circuit decision clears the way for implementation of the remedial measures to which the City agreed as part of the stop & frisk litigation," said the city's corporation counsel, Zachary Carter, in a statement.

Baher Azmy, the legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, one of the groups that helped bring the Floyd case, celebrated the ruling in a statement. She said it “confirms the unions cannot claim they are harmed by court orders simply requiring them to comply with the Constitution. 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.”

Police unions celebrated part of the decision, in which the court said its ruling should not prohibit the district court from considering the unions' interest in the remedies.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said, “The court made clear that the PBA's collective bargaining and state law rights do not take a back seat to what is clearly a voluntary agreement between plaintiffs and the City, a point the PBA has made repeatedly since the agreement was struck by the new administration. The PBA will continue to monitor actions taken in this process moving forward to ensure that they do not violate the rights of NYC police officers.”

--additional reporting by Colby Hamilton