City asks judge to delay her 'stop-and-frisk' ruling
City officials have asked a federal judge to suspend her ruling that the NYPD had unconstitutionally implemented its stop-and-frisk tactics, saying a stay was needed because of the threat of less police enforcement and confusion in the ranks.
In a four-page letter to Judge Shira A. Scheindlin dated Tuesday, city lawyers said she should suspend her Aug. 12 order while a city appeal was pending to forestall her directive that the city take various corrective measures. Those steps include funding of an outside monitor, retraining of officers and a pilot project for using police body cameras -- measures that might have to be undone should the city prevail on appeal, the lawyers said.
"Not only will defendants [NYPD] be harmed by having to train on what they believe are errors of law, should defendants later prevail on the appeal, the officers will have to be retrained again, undoubtedly leading to severe and possibly irreparable disruption and confusion among the rank and file," said assistant corporations counsels Heidi Grossman and Linda Donahue in their letter to Scheindlin.
"The city remains highly concerned by ramifications from this decision," city corporation counsel Michael A. Cardozo said in a statement. "We believe that the Police Department and its officers have acted -- and continue to act -- lawfully and constitutionally."
Scheindlin will give lawyers for the plaintiffs time to file response papers before she rules. Some legal experts said privately they believe Scheindlin will deny the city request, forcing the city to seek one from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
In her original ruling, Scheindlin said the NYPD activity in stop and frisk over the years amounted to "indirect" racial profiling since about 87 percent of those stopped were black or Hispanic. She ruled that the city actions had violated the federal constitutional rights of the plaintiffs against unreasonable searches. The city argued police acted on reasonable suspicion that crimes had been committed or were about to be committed by those stopped and frisked.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly have been strongly critical of Scheindlin's decision, saying it likely would lead to a reversal in the city's decades-long decline in crime. City lawyers also argued that confusion among the police rank and file from the court's recommendations "will simply lead to less enforcement action in general."
Scheindlin appointed an outside federal monitor, former prosecutor Peter Zimroth, to assess and guide the city in its reform of stop-and-frisk tactics. She also called for enhanced training and ordered a pilot program in the use of body cameras for police officers in five precincts.
New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman said: "I am not surprised that the city continues to fight against any meaningful oversight of its policies every step of the way. We think the judge's decision was sound."