Cop union sues over anti-profiling law

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rich Bockmann

The union representing the NYPD’s rank-and-file officers filed a lawsuit against the City Council this week, claiming lawmakers overstepped their authority by passing a vague anti-profiling law that leaves cops to guess who can and cannot be stopped.

In August, the City Council overrode a mayoral veto and passed a pair of stop-and-frisk reform bills known as the Community Safety Act. One of the laws creates an inspector general to oversee the Police Department and another, Local Law 71, creates a legal pathway for alleged profiling victims to sue individual officers under expanded definitions of bias-based profiling.

Both laws are set to take effect Nov. 23.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court Tuesday claiming that Local Law 71 is pre-empted by state law and too vague to be enforced.

According to the PBA’s complaint, the authority to regulate law enforcement departments rests with the state Legislature unless Albany specifically delineates oversight to local lawmakers.

The state Criminal Procedure Law addressing stop-and-frisks does not “grant any authority, let alone any specific authority, to the Council of the City of New York or any other local legislative body to regulate the conduct of police officers or peace officers either in stopping, questioning and frisking individuals or initiating any other form of law enforcement activity with respect to individuals,” the lawsuit claims.

The union also claims the law lacks objective standards officers can use to determine what constitutes a legal law enforcement action.

“Regardless of whether Local Law 71’s nebulous requirements are designed to deter police officers from engaging in the vitally important policing conduct specifically authorized and permitted by [state criminal procedure], the effect of Local Law 71’s nebulous requirements can only be to chill the willingness of police officers to engage in that very conduct,” the PBA’s lawyers wrote.

In Early September Mayor Michael Bloomberg filed a similar lawsuit on the grounds that the state’s Criminal Procedure Law supersedes the council’s legislation.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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