New York Post
October 21, 2014

 

OPINION

No place for courts in stop-frisk case

By Pat Lynch

Can two people make an agreement to sell out the rights of a third person?

Can they shield themselves from the resulting legal and ­political consequences by getting a federal court to lend its ­approval?

Those were the real issues before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals as it considered the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association’s and other police unions’ requests to intervene in the stop, question and frisk case.

This is the same court that removed the original judge who presided over the case because of her appearance of bias. But since then, the newly elected mayor struck a deal with the plaintiffs in the case to implement virtually all of the remedies ordered by that biased judge.

This has led some to ask: Shouldn’t the unions allow the democratic process to work? The city elected a mayor, they argue, and this mayor should be entitled to implement the policies he wishes.

We don’t disagree with that proposition, except to the ­extent that those policies violate the rights of others, particularly New York City police ­officers.

Police officers are the ones who will be stuck living with the remedies fashioned by the disqualified district judge.

What we do disagree with, however, is a federal court lending its authority to what amounts to a policy decision and exercising its authority based on the district judge’s fundamentally flawed ruling.

Worse yet, the federal court has now put the NYPD, one of the most sophisticated, innovative and progressive police agencies in the world, under the monitorship of an attorney and a federal judge, neither of whom has experience in professional policing, for upward of five years.

Five years!

A date that falls — not coincidentally — after the next mayoral election.

And this is just the part of the remedial process that is already known. No one can predict the mischief that will come out of the second phase of that process, a vehicle designed by the former judge to hide the most consequential changes from those with legal interests in the reforms.

This ill-defined phasing of the case has now been embraced by the judge’s successor.

What is certain, however, is that an even greater number of the difficult choices that are part of policing one of the most complex and diverse cities in the country will be shielded from scrutiny — and from possible political fallout — by the court’s seal of approval.

If the new mayor truly believes that the democratic process should be allowed to work, he should be trying to get the federal courts out of an issue that naturally belongs in the local political process. He is the chief executive of the city, and the law gives him the authority to make policy decisions.

If those policy decisions run afoul of state laws, state courts and administrative agencies will provide a forum to resolve those issues.

In the end, the mayor will be judged — and will run for re-election — on the success or failure of his policies.

He should not be permitted to hide behind the federal courts in the event those policies leave us with a more dangerous and less livable city, as increasingly appears to be the case.