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NewsNew York

NYC begins process to drop stop-and-frisk appeal

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration has filed court papers seeking to drop an appeal of a judge's decision ordering major reforms to the police department's stop-and-frisk policy. (Jan. 21, 2014) Credit: Charles Eckert

Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced Thursday that New York City has begun the process of ending the appeal of a federal court ruling that found NYPD stop-and-frisk practices unconstitutional and named a monitor to oversee reforms.

In legal papers filed with the 2d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the city asked to return the case to the trial court to explore a settlement. Lawyers who sued the city said the deal will limit the monitor's term to three years, but keep in place orders to improve training, discipline and supervision at the NYPD.

The settlement is expected to be followed by withdrawal of the appeal, fulfilling a campaign promise by DeBlasio, a critic of the NYPD's stop-and-frisk tactics. But the city will not try to return the case to U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, who was removed for an appearance of bias last year and replaced by U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres.

"We believe in ending the overuse of stop and frisk," DeBlasio said at the news conference. "We are taking significant corrective action to fix what is broken."

"We will not break the law to enforce the law," new NYPD Comm. William Bratton said in a statement. "That's my solemn promise to every New Yorker."

Lawyers who sued the city on behalf of people targeted for street stops praised the developments. "We are glad to have reached an agreement with the City and commend Mayor DeBlasio for promising to drop the appeal and embracing reform," said Vince Warren, director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Scheindlin ruled last year that as stop-and-frisk activity skyrocketed under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Comm. Ray Kelly the police unconstitutionally targeted minorities and made stops without the "reasonable suspicion" required by law.

She named former city corporation counsel Peter Zimroth to oversee discussions with the NYPD and lawyers who sued the city on reforms in training, supervision and discipline, and also ordered a pilot project to equip officers with cameras to record all stops.

The ruling was denounced by Kelly, Bloomberg and police unions, who contended that aggressive stop-and-frisk tactics had been a crucial factor in reducing the crime rate and argued that the judge had defamed police officers for doing their jobs.

Last fall, the 2d Circuit panel hearing the appeal removed Scheindlin, finding that she had improperly maneuvered to get the stop-and-frisk challenges assigned to her and later made media comments responding to criticism from City Hall. The case was reassigned to Torres, who became a federal judge last year.

After Scheindlin was removed, Bloomberg asked the 2d Circuit to immediately vacate her decision on stop and frisk before DeBlasio took office. The court declined, leaving the new mayor in a position to agree to Scheindlin's order.

Several police unions have asked the 2d Circuit to grant them formal status in the case that would allow them to pursue an appeal, even if the city drops out. That issue has not been resolved.

Additionally, Scheindlin challenged her removal. It is not clear whether that issue will remain alive once the city withdraws its appeal.

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