Mayor Bill de Blasio announces that New York City will not appeal Southern District Judge Shira Scheindlin’s ruling that the police stop-and-frisk tactics are unconstitutional. Appearing with deBlasio yesterday at the Brownsville Recreation Center in Brooklyn are left, Nicholas Peart, 23, a plaintiff in the litigation, and Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton announced an accord to settle stop-and-frisk litigation Thursday, vowing to follow through on reforming police department policies and to keep a court-appointed monitor on the job.
The announcement came at a press conference held at the Brownsville Recreation Center. In 2012, the 73rd Precinct had the highest percentage of stops per population of any precinct in the city.
De Blasio, Bratton and Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter pledged to pursue changes in stop-and-frisk policies found unconstitutional by Southern District Judge Shira Scheindlin on Feb. 14 and Aug. 12, 2013, including her decision to appoint Peter Zimroth of Arnold & Porter as a police department monitor.
In a complete turn-around from the dogged opposition to stop-and-frisk litigation by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, de Blasio said, we “accept the facts and road map laid out” in Scheindlin’s “landmark ruling” in Floyd v. City of New York, 13-3088, including her finding that stop-and-frisk policies “unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men.”
De Blasio said the monitor would be in place for three years.
Once “the agreement is ratified” by Southern District Judge Analisa Torres, de Blasio said, the Corporation Counsel would drop its appeal of Scheindlin’s rulings in Floyd and a second case over policing outside of private buildings in the Bronx.
Carter, invoking Martin Luther King, said the city was reaffirming King’s commitment by ensuring that “no law-abiding citizen should fear the intrusion of law enforcement simply because of the color of their skin.”
He said the next three years would be spent developing “policies, procedures and training to ensure that inappropriate considerations of race will not be a determinative factor in police decision making.”
The reforms that are expected to take place include improved training and training materials, oversight of officers on the street and messages on police department policies broadcast by supervisors.
Scheindlin’s rulings were stayed on Oct. 31 by a three-judge motions panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which also removed her as presiding judge for giving the appearance of partiality in press interviews during trial in the Floyd case.
But it was already apparent that de Blasio, who ran against stop-and-frisk, was about to be elected mayor.
The motions panel then rejected a move by Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo to vacate Scheindlin’s rulings on Nov. 21.
The full court followed on Nov. 25 by placing the entire matter in “abeyance,” including requests for en banc review by both the plaintiffs and lawyers for Scheindlin who said the motions panel was out of line for removing her from the case. The full circuit invited the parties to seek a remand for purposes of resolving the cases.
The city accepted that invitation Thursday, as Acting Corporation Counsel Jeffrey Friedlander and Assistant Corporation Counsel Deborah Brenner, filed a motion for a limited remand with the Second Circuit for 45 days “to permit the parties to explore a resolution” in Floyd and a second case, Ligon v. City of New York, 13-3123.
The police department had already begun a substantial easing back of stop-and-frisk by the time the parties were gearing up for trial in Floyd in 2013 as the quarterly statistics on the number of stop-and-frisk encounters as reported to the City Council showed a dramatic drop.
The numbers had continued to drop even as the city was arguing before a Second Circuit motions panel for a stay of Scheindlin’s rulings.
The total number of stop-and-frisk reports filed by police for 2013 was about 194,000, less than one third the encounters reported by police during the peak of the program. There were 694,000 encounters in 2011 and 532,911 in 2012.
By the middle of January, Bratton said, “The problem has been more-or-less solved” and de Blasio said reform was underway.
Bratton addressed one question yesterday on an idea raised by Scheindlin during Floyd and included in her remedial order—a pilot program in which officers in one precinct per borough would wear body cameras to record police encounters for one year.
Bratton said, “American policing is moving very quickly in that direction.”
Vincent Warren, executive director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, whose lawyers served as co-counsel in Floyd, said the agreement marked “a significant day in the fight for accountability” and “the legal questions have now been settled.”
Donna Lieberman, direcor of the New York Civil Liberties Union, whose lawyers led the way in Ligon, said “We all know that change starts with the message from the top” and “we believe in the good will and good intentions of the new administration.”
Two separate groups of police unions moved to intervene in the appeal in September in the hopes of carrying the appeal forward should a new administration elect to pull the plug.
Their motions were also held in abeyance by the full court. Thursday, the circuit issued an order asking that they submit their views on the consent remand by Feb.7, with the parties in the case to reply by Feb. 14.
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