A federal judge ruled Wednesday that New York City police unions will not be permitted to intervene and try to keep alive an appeal of a landmark ruling ordering the NYPD to reform its stop-and-frisk practices.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan could pave the way for finalizing a settlement between the plaintiffs and the new administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who agreed to stop appeals and begin implementing the court-ordered reforms.
De Blasio called it a "major step," but the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, one of the key unions fighting reforms, said it will seek review of Torres' decision, which could further postpone the start of talks on how to change training, discipline and supervision.
"The proposed settlement of the case will substantially impact New York City police officers," said PBA president Patrick Lynch. " . . . It is unfair and inconceivable that employees would not be allowed in this process."
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled last year that the city had turned a blind eye to stop-and-frisk practices that were unconstitutional and racially discriminatory. She named a monitor to oversee discussions on how to reform street stops.
The Bloomberg administration appealed, and the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put the decision on hold and removed the judge for appearing biased. When de Blasio took over and quickly agreed to withdraw the appeal, the unions sought permission to keep it alive.
Torres, who took over the case from Scheindlin, said they had no standing.
"The Unions' contention that all NYPD officers are besmirched by the Liability Order rests on the flawed assumption that anonymous officers . . . have a reputational interest arising from the Court's finding against their employer," Torres wrote.
Litigation over the NYPD stop-and-frisk practices began more than a decade ago, and plaintiff's lawyers said they feared union resistance would further delay discussion of substantive reforms.
"It's very disappointing to hear that the unions want to continue a 15-year fight in court as opposed to sitting down and coming up with a solution together," said Darius Charney, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights.