Judge refuses delay on NYC stop-frisk reforms

Chief of Department Joseph Esposito joins NYPD officers

Chief of Department Joseph Esposito joins NYPD officers and city officials on his penultimate day at the New York Police Department. (March 26, 2013) (Credit: Nancy Borowick)

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Manhattan U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin has refused New York City's request for a delay of her rulings ordering reforms in the NYPD's stop-and-frisk procedures while it pursues an appeal.

"Ordering a stay now would send precisely the wrong signal," Scheindlin wrote. "It would essentially confirm that the past practices . . . were justified and based on constitutional police practices. It would also send the message that reducing the number of stops is somehow dangerous to the residents of this City."

The judge ruled last month that police were making street stops without the "reasonable suspicion" required by the Constitution, and targeting minorities. She ordered the appointment of a monitor to institute reforms in training, supervision and discipline, and a pilot project to have officers wear cameras to record stops.

The Bloomberg administration and the NYPD say the ruling will compromise public safety and improperly intrudes into local policing authority. But other major political figures filed court papers opposing a stay, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee for mayor.

The city has already filed a notice of appeal with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and has asked for expedited handling. The law department said yesterday that it would also ask the 2nd Circuit to stay Scheindlin's order pending the appeal.

"The City remains committed to reversing the District Court's underlying decision as expeditiously as possible," chief lawyer Michael Cardozo said in a statement. " . . . The plaintiffs have opposed that motion, apparently preferring to keep police officers in limbo for the foreseeable future. We cannot afford such delay."

In her 17-page ruling, Scheindlin said that her order was unlikely to be overturned on appeal, and that the immediate steps to carry out her orders -- meetings between the monitor she named and the city to map out an implementation plan -- were not intrusive.

She also rejected the city's claim that stop-and-frisk reforms would endanger public safety, noting that in the past year the NYPD has reduced stops without any increase in the crime rate.

"The city presents no evidence that effective policing and constitutional policing are incompatible," the judge wrote.

Lawyers who brought the cases challenging stop-and-frisk practices praised her decision.

"After more than a decade of unconstitutional and racially discriminatory police practices . . . it is long past time for the city to end its resistance and participate in making those changes," said a spokeswoman for New York's Center for Constitutional Rights.

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