Wall Street Journal
October 16, 2014

New York City Police Unions Ask Again to Appeal Stop-and-Frisk Decision

Mayor Bill de Blasio Is Confident That Federal Appeals Panel Will Dismiss Motion


City police unions tried to persuade a panel of federal judges Wednesday that they had a right to appeal a ruling that the New York Police Department’s use of the policing tactic known as stop-and-frisk was unconstitutional.

Attorneys argued before the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the unions had legal standing to join an appeal of a decision by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin last year. Her decision ordered changes to the NYPD as well as an independent monitor for the department.

Steven Engle, an attorney for the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said the ruling would make it difficult for the union to negotiate policing tactics with the de Blasio administration.

“Our rights are impaired,” Mr. Engle told the three-judge panel.

The police unions were appealing a different federal judge’s decision in July that they had no standing to take up the appeal to Judge Scheindlin’s ruling. That appeal first was lodged by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg ’s administration but dropped by the city under Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The decision by Judge Scheindlin came after a monthslong civil trial in which plaintiffs and civil-rights groups argued that the policing tactic was biased against racial minorities.

Judge Barrington Parker expressed skepticism Wednesday about the unions’ claims, saying he believed they were using the courts to “collect chips” in contract negotiations with the administration at City Hall.

“You want to use this procedure as leverage for the collective bargaining agreement,” Judge Parker told Joseph A. DiRuzzo, an attorney representing the Detectives’ Endowment Association, the Captains Endowment Association and the Lieutenants Benevolent Association.

“I don’t think that’s a proper basis for an intervention.”

Judge Scheindlin also called for the NYPD to implement a pilot program that would place body cameras on officers and said the city should seek public input over how to carry out the changes in policing policy.

After the hearing, Mr. DiRuzzo said the Scheindlin ruling made it useless for the union to try to negotiate issues concerning police procedure and officers’ safety.

“It doesn’t do the unions any good to go to the bargaining table with the city where the city can turn around and say ‘we can’t give you any relief. Take it up to the judge,’” Mr. DiRuzzo said.

But Baher Azmy, legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, a group that represented plaintiffs in the class-action suit that challenged the lawfulness of stop-and-frisk, called the legal case by the police unions “cynical and inappropriate.”

“All it does is require them to comply with the Constitution,” Mr. Azmy said of the 2013 decision by Ms. Scheindlin.

Mr. de Blasio said he was confident the Second Circuit panel would dismiss the unions’ motion, paving the way for implementation of the Scheindlin ruling.

“I think the courts understand that we’ve acted absolutely appropriately in changing what was a broken policy,” Mr. de Blasio said at an unrelated news conference.

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, who has been outspoken about her opposition to the use of stop-and-frisk, said the police unions should stand down with their legal challenges and respect the results of the 2013 mayoral election. In his campaign, Mr. de Blasio promised broad changes to police policies. “The people have spoken” she said.

Elizabeth Joh, a law professor at the University of California, Davis, said the police union would likely have a difficult time persuading the courts they had standing to appeal.

“I think they have a weak case,” said Ms. Joh, who isn’t involved in the case. “The police unions haven’t been able to show the court that there is some kind of damage or injury to them.”

Write to Mara Gay at mara.gay@wsj.com