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Peter Zimroth, overseer of NYPD stop-and-frisk reforms, dies at 78

Peter Zimroth, who oversaw efforts by the NYPD

Peter Zimroth, who oversaw efforts by the NYPD to reform its stop-and-frisk policy, died Monday at age 78. Credit: Jason Andrew

Peter Zimroth, the court-appointed overseer of NYPD efforts to revise its stop-and-frisk policies, died Monday after a two-year struggle with pancreatic cancer, colleagues said.

The prominent lawyer was 78 and died at his New York City home, according to his former law firm, Arnold & Porter.

Zimroth worked as overseer amid a federal appeals court's October 2013 decision to remove U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin from a case involving the NYPD's use of stop and frisk. Scheindlin had previously ordered the police department to make reforms to the practice after ruling that the NYPD unconstitutionally targeted minorities for street stops. The three-judge 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel said Scheindlin gave an appearance of bias by maneuvering to get the case and giving news interviews.

Federal Judge Analisa Torres took over the case, with Zimroth continuing as a special monitor of the NYPD’s eight-year effort to reform how cops carried out stop and frisk. Zimroth coordinated his efforts with attorneys for the various plaintiffs who sued the city, NYPD officials and city lawyers.

Using a team of analysts, lawyers and statisticians, Zimroth also produced a series of reports assessing the police department's use of various innovations, including body-worn cameras and their efficacy in curbing improper stops by officers. In his last report, released in October, Zimroth found that police did not target minorities when the NYPD was briefly tasked with enforcing masking and social distancing rules during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. Critics had alleged that police gave more summonses and arrested more minorities than white detainees while enforcing coronavirus safety measures.

City Corporation Counsel Georgia M. Pestana, whose office has worked closely with Zimroth on the stop-and-frisk cases, called him a friend and extolled his dedication to public service.

"Peter was an exemplary and thoughtful leader who made enormous contributions to people of this city," Pestana said in a statement. "He was a dedicated and excellent Corporation Counsel who always demonstrated a strong moral compass and commitment to furthering the interests of the City. He will be sorely missed."

Richard M. Alexander, chairman of Arnold & Porter, said: "Peter was an extraordinary lawyer, teacher, colleague and friend. His life was one of dedication to his family, his clients and to the public good. We mourn his passing."

Legal experts said that Zimroth’s successor as NYPD monitor will be selected by Torres.

A graduate of the city's public school system in Brooklyn, Zimroth earned degrees from Columbia University and Yale Law School, where he was editor of the law journal, according to his online biography. After law school, Zimroth worked as a law clerk to Judge David Bazelon of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas.

In 1986, Zimroth was appointed the city's corporation counsel by Mayor Edward Koch, a job he held until 1987. Zimroth also served as a professor at the NYU law school and until recently was an adjunct professor and director of the law school’s Center on Civil Justice, his biography stated.

Zimroth is survived by his wife, actor Estelle Parsons; and their son, Abe, and Parsons' two daughters from a previous marriage.

A funeral was scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday at Plaza Jewish Community Chapel, 630 Amsterdam Ave., Manhattan.

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