A union for New York City Police Department officers sued the city council in a bid to overturn a local law allowing citizens to bring lawsuits against police for racial profiling.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, in a complaint filed today in New York state court in Manhattan, claimed the measure allowing racial profiling cases is preempted by state law and that the council exceeded its authority in passing it. The association represents more than 22,000 officers.
“The New York State Criminal Procedure Law is clear and unambiguous in establishing itself as the sole and exclusive source for procedure for criminal actions, proceedings and matters in the state of New York,” PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said in a statement.
The council in September overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of two bills, one permitting the racial-profiling suits and the other imposing an inspector general to oversee police practices. The two laws were passed after a federal judge ruled in August that New York police violated the U.S. Constitution in stop-and-frisk encounters with hundreds of thousands of mostly young black and Hispanic men.
The council’s press office said in an e-mail that it stands by the law and will defend it in court.
“The law is a key component of the council’s reform of stop-and-frisk and to ensuring unconstitutional stops end,” the council said in a statement.
The police union’s suit mirrors one the mayor brought against the city council last month. The Sergeants Benevolent Association, a union representing 13,000 active and retired NYPD sergeants, has asked to join the mayor’s case.
“The city has broad discretion to deny defense and indemnification for police officers when it finds they have engaged in conduct that exceeds the scope of their employment, violates a rule or regulation or is intentional or reckless,” the sergeants association said in a court filing. “Because Local Law 71 purports to render certain law enforcement practices illegal in a manner that is unconstitutionally vague, there is a substantial risk that the city may refuse to defend and indemnify officers based on an overbroad interpretation of the local law.”
U.S. District Judge Shira Sheindlin in Manhattan appointed a monitor in August to ensure that stop-and-frisk operations are conducted lawfully. Bloomberg, 71, has said the council’s actions and the court-appointed monitor would hinder patrol officers’ ability to make split-second decisions on the street, making it more difficult to fight crime and terrorism.
Bloomberg is the majority owner of Bloomberg LP, parent of Bloomberg News. A political independent, he is barred by law from seeking a fourth term.
The cases are the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association of the City of New York Inc. v. the Council of the City of New York, 653550/2013, and Mayor of the City of New York v. Council of the City of New York, 451543/2013, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).