Courthouse News Service


Stop-and-Frisk Reform Talks Will Include NYC Cop Unions

Thursday, March 19, 2015

By ADAM KLASFELD

MANHATTAN (CN) - Months after failing to scuttle a landmark settlement to reform stop-and-frisk policies, five New York City police unions muscled their way Thursday into playing a limited role on the deal's implementation.

The two-page order from U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres granting such relief cites the need to give the unions "a practical opportunity" to lodge their objections before a court-appointed monitor issues a final recommendations.

This arrangement gives the unions far less clout far less clout than they wanted, after months of their protests failed.

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and other unions have been at odds with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ever since he promised on the campaign trail to end racial disparities in street stops.

Though de Blasio's predecessor had wanted to challenge the outcome of Floyd v. The City of New York, de Blasio delivered on his promise early in his tenure to drop that appeal. A remedies order in Floyd recommends that the department curtail its pattern of profiling by outfitting officers with body cameras and submitting to a court monitor.

When the PBA and other unions fought to intervene, the 2nd Circuit slammed their appeal as a "collateral attack on the democratic process."

Shortly after that Oct. 31, 2014, ruling, tensions between the de Blasio administration and the unions came to a boil in the wake of a grand jury's refusal to indict the Staten Island police officer who placed a fatal chokehold on Eric Garner. A Staten Island judge to release the Garner grand jury records on Thursday.

Speaking about the case last year, de Blasio noted that the grand jury's outcome was one "many in our city did not want." Noting that his children are biracial, the mayor also addressed how the Garner case made him think of the "dangers" his son faces.

"No family should have to go through what the Garner family went through," de Blasio said.

PBA leader Pat Lynch countered with an often-vitriolic campaign against de Blasio. Union members turned their backs at the mayor at public events, insulted him in public statements, and spent several weeks protesting with a police slowdown that started shortly before the New Year.

Their antagonism appears to have ebbed dramatically since then.

In a March 4 letter to chambers, Steven Engel, an attorney for the PBA with the law firm Dechert told the judge that City Hall now had "no objection to (and [saw] a potential benefit in)" the unions entering the process.

City lawyers confirmed that perception in a letter on Wednesday that called the unions "very important non-party stakeholders who should have input into the remedial process."

Darius Charney, the attorney who headed the stop-and-frisk case for the Center for Constitutional Rights, said in a phone interview that the parties had always intended to involve the unions in the process.

"They wanted a special role as a party," Charney noted, referring to the unions.

Charney added that the ruling treats the union as one of many stakeholders in the joint reform process.

"The unions are going to have a say in this process," he said. "It has to be constructive say."

In a statement, the Center for Constitutional Rights said that this approach is inspired for a police reform model that paid dividends in Cincinnati.

"We have always hoped and expected the unions to participate meaningfully in the reform process: as we learned from the Cincinnati experience, buy-in from police officers can be hard, but it is absolutely critical to lasting reform," the group said. "We hope the PBA and other police unions in New York City follow the example of their colleagues in Cincinnati, where all stakeholders did the hard work of building a better future for their city together."

Spokesmen for the city and the unions did not immediately respond to requests for comment.