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Court-appointed monitor urges judge to OK NYPD stop-and-frisk rules changes

A New York City police car is posted

A New York City police car is posted in front of the French Consulate in Manhattan on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. Credit: Charles Eckert

A special court-appointed monitor overseeing NYPD stop-and-frisk reforms asked a federal judge Monday to approve changes police brass made in the Patrol Guide which he believed would help remedy problems with the way cops carried out stops.

In a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan, monitor Peter Zimroth said the changes to the guide will give officers a better understanding of what they can do in carrying out stop, question and frisk activities.

Zimroth also said changes in the Patrol Guide inform officers that race or ethnicity may only be considered in making a stop or taking other police action if it is part of a "specific and reliable suspect description," a rule which he related to the equal-protection clause of the Constitution's 14th amendment.

Zimroth was appointed to monitor NYPD reforms in stop-and-frisk activity as a result of a contentious lawsuit which in 2013 led to a finding by federal Judge Shira Scheindlin that police carried out stops in an unconstitutional manner against some minorities. Scheindlin was later removed from the case by a federal appeals court and the case was assigned to Torres.

After Mayor Bill de Blasio took office, the city decided to drop its appeal of the Scheindlin ruling and settled with the plaintiffs. Zimroth's appointment followed that settlement.

While officers are expected to follow the Patrol Guide, Zimroth said in his letter to the court that previous versions of the guide didn't give officers enough explanation of when stop-and-frisk activity was permitted.

As a result of focus group meetings, police said they wanted more information and instruction on what they could and couldn't do under the law related to stop and frisk, Zimroth noted.

The revised Patrol Guide now contains a lengthy recitation of New York State law on police stops spelled out in the New York State Court of Appeals decision over two decades ago in the case of People v. DeBour.

Zimroth didn't return an email message asking when he expected Torres to rule on the Patrol Guide revisions.

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