Last Main Hurdle For Stop-&-Frisk Reform
Mayor Bill de Blasio formally ended last Wednesday, Mar. 5, his predecessor’s challenge of a city law prohibiting the NYPD from using “bias-based profiling” as a law enforcement tactic.
De Blasio stated he would drop the city’s lawsuit filed last year by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg seeking to prevent the enactment of .provisions in Local Law 71, one half of the Community Safety Act the City Council passed last year.
Local Law 71 bans NYPD officers from stopping any individual based on general criteria such as race, ethnicity, color, creed, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, citizenship status or housing status. Moreover, the law offers legal recourse to individuals who believe they were unfairly targeted by police officers and wish to seek reform of NYPD policy.
The law does not authorize any such plaintiff to seek monetary damages from the city, it was noted.
As noted, the Community Safety Act-which included legislation creating an NYPD inspector general to oversee the department’s policies and procedure-was passed last July by the City Council but vetoed by Mayor Bloomberg. The Council subsequently overrode Bloomberg’s veto of the act the following month.
The former mayor, through the city’s Corporation Counsel, filed a lawsuit in September seeking to block the provisions of Local Law 71 from taking effect; the NYPD inspector general law was not challenged.
In announcing the lawsuit’s demise, de Blasio-who supported the Community Safety Act while campaigning for mayor-reiterated the legislation would make New York City safer and strengthen the relationship between the NYPD and the communities it serves.
“There is absolutely no contradiction in protecting the public safety of New Yorkers and respecting their civil liberties,” de Blasio said in a statement. “In fact, those two priorities must go hand-in-hand. No New Yorker should ever face discrimination based on the color of his or her skin. We are going to be explicit in setting fair and effective standards that prevent bias in any form.”
According to the Mayor’s Office, the NYPD “has provided guidance to police officers” to ensure compliance with Local Law 71 and would “ensure that police officers, acting in the scope of their duties and in conformance with Patrol Guide standards, will be represented by the Law Department.”
In January, de Blasio announced the city would drop its challenge of a ruling by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin last August appointing a federal monitor to oversee NYPD reform of its stop-and-frisk tactic. Then-Mayor Bloomberg filed an appeal of the ruling, claiming the tactic is necessary to preserving public safety.
NYPD officers use stop-and-frisk to target individuals fitting the description of a suspected criminal, or individuals who-in the judgment of an officer-appear to be acting suspiciously. Civil rights activists charged in recent years the NYPD abused the tactic and, in the process, unfairly targeted persons of color.
Since taking office in January, Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton indicated they would follow Scheindlin’s ruling and reform the use of stopand frisk.