July 30 (Bloomberg) -- New York police unions lost a bid to block Mayor Bill de Blasio’s settlement of lawsuits over stop-and-frisk tactics, removing a major obstacle to an accord that will largely bar the controversial police practice.
U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan rejected the request by the five unions, including the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the Detectives’ Endowment Association, saying they have no significant interests tied to the case.
“The court’s decision today to formally approve the settlement to resolve the stop-and-frisk litigation is a major step in our efforts to repair police-community relations,” De Blasio said in a statement. “We remain committed to ensuring that every New Yorker is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve, while also creating more effective policing that will keep our neighborhoods and those who protect them safe.”
The decision brings the stop-and-frisk case closer to a resolution after more than a decade of court battles. New York City may now withdraw a challenge the previous administration filed opposing a ruling deeming the tactic discriminatory against minorities, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, whose lawyers represented some plaintiffs in the suits.
Police are generally barred by law from stopping, questioning or frisking -- the act of patting a person down in a search for weapons or other contraband -- someone in the street without some level of reasonable, individualized suspicion. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police must have such suspicion of crime to justify a stop.
Upon taking office in January, de Blasio announced the city had reached a deal with victims of the practice who had sued. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg credited stop-and-frisk with driving down crime during his 12-year tenure. .
The previous administration had obtained a stay of U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin’s order in Manhattan federal court in which she assailed the practice, while it appealed. The unions asked to step into the shoes of the city to pursue an appeal after the current administration decided to settle.
The unions also asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to review the measures recommended by Scheindlin, including the appointment of a monitor. That request is pending. Scheindlin was later removed from the case by the appeals court and replaced by Torres.
“The unions’ contention that all NYPD officers are besmirched” by the deal “rests on the flawed assumption that anonymous officers who have not taken part in this litigation have a reputational interest,” Torres said in her ruling.
Patrick Lynch, the PBA president, said the union will challenge Torres’s decision, and that her ruling unfairly excluded officers who would have to implement the reforms.
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The cases are Ligon v. City of New York, 13-03442, and Floyd v. City of New York, 13-03461, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (New York).
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