September 30, 2014

Yield on Stop-and-Frisk, Advocates Urge Unions

PBA Declines to Drop Appeal


PATRICK LYNCH: Cops deserve a voice in this.  

Civil-rights advocates rallied at City Hall Sept. 24 to urge police unions to drop their request to intervene in an appeal of the Federal District Court decision that the NYPD uses stop-and-frisk in an illegal manner.

The advocates say the motion to intervene is an attempt to keep alive the appeal, which Mayor de Blasio has moved to drop. The trial court rejected the bid, but the unions are appealing that decision.

PBA: No Apologies

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association rejected the call to end the attempt to intervene. “We make no apologies for protecting our members from a decision that directly impacts how we do our job,” PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said in a statement. “The point of our challenge is to allow our members who protect everyone in this city regardless of race, creed or sexual orientation, to have a voice in the discussion of operational changes that will directly impact us and the work that we do.”

The advocates at City Hall saw it differently. “With the support of elected leaders and civil-rights advocates, this administration ended the city’s opposition to the stop-and-frisk litigation,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “As we continue to heal the relationship between minority communities and the NYPD, I join the many voices calling on police unions to end their opposition to these needed, court-ordered policing reforms.”

“Police unions should do right by both New Yorkers and the officers they represent by supporting the Joint Remedial Process to move forward, rather than continuing a lost Bloomberg-era fight,” said Priscilla Gonzalez of Communities United for Police Reform.

U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled in August 2013 that the city’s aggressive stop-and-frisk program violated the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court guidelines saying stops can be made only if officers have reasonable suspicion that the person being stopped is in the process of committing or has just committed a crime.

Blaming Race, Ethnicity

Judge Scheindlin ruled that many blacks and Latinos were being stopped not because of indications that they were committing a crime but because they matched the race or ethnicity of the majority of suspects in violent offenses.

Then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who considered stop-and-frisk a prime reason for the record drops in crime during his 12 years in office, appealed. The appeals court granted his request to put remedies ordered by Judge Scheindlin, including changes in training and supervision and appointment of a Federal monitor, on hold until the appeals process was complete.

Then Mr. de Blasio won the mayoralty after a campaign in which he targeted the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk efforts as overly aggressive. He worked out a settlement with the groups that brought the suit that basically incorporated Judge Scheindlin’s decision. The appeal was officially dropped in August.

The new Judge in the case, Analisa Torres, rejected the unions’ bid to intervene. Oral arguments on their appeal are scheduled to begin Oct.15.

A brief filed in February by four of the five unions said Judge Scheindlin’s findings “unfairly besmirch the reputations of the men and women of the NYPD...The contemplated injunction would directly burden the officers’ daily work and would impair the police unions’ collective-bargaining and other rights. The Police Intervenors are fighting to participate in this appeal to protect their reputations and to avoid these unwarranted burdens.”

Holding Up Reform?

The unions found no sympathy at the rally. City Council Member Rosie Mendez, co-chair of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus said, “We need to move forward in this city knowing that there is a clear plan to reform the policies of the NYPD that have trampled over our constitutional rights as individuals and that has disproportionately targeted communities of color. It is unacceptable that while we attempt to identify or implement reforms that would help improve community-police relations, police unions are holding up the process.”

The number of stops has plummeted since the second quarter of 2012, when the outcry by citizens and public officials opposed to the NYPD’s use of the tactic hit critical mass and then-Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly issued a memo ordering officers to focus on quality stops rather than quantity. The department’s de-emphasis of stop-and-frisk quotas contributed to the decline. In 2011 there was a record number of stops, 685,724. In contrast, for the first six months of 2014, there were 27,257 stops, meaning if officers continue at that pace fewer than 55,000 people will be stopped this year.

Crime has continued to drop this year, although shootings began to increase. The NYPD reported 841 shooting incidents through Sept. 14, compared with 794 for a similar period in 2013, an increase of 6 percent.