The city’s biggest police union asked a court Tuesday to nix a law that would make it easier for people to bring racial-profiling lawsuits, saying it would cast a cloud of doubt over officers’ conduct.
The measure is too vague, “leaves officers to guess” what’s allowed and threatens to taint the entire New York Police Department with a brush of discrimination, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association said in a lawsuit filed against the City Council.
“(The law) directly threatens the lives and safety of police officers because it chills their willingness to undertake law enforcement action necessary to protect their safety,” including stop-question-and-frisk, the lawsuit adds.
The City Council said it would vigorously fight the suit, which furthers a debate that moved quickly from City Hall to court after lawmakers’ August vote to override Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto. Bloomberg filed his own suit against the law last month; the Sergeants Benevolent Association, which represents 13,000 NYPD supervisors, is seeking court permission to join that lawsuit on the mayor’s side.
The law, set to take effect late next month, eases some legal standards for claims that stop-and-frisk and other techniques were used in a biased way. Such lawsuits can seek policy changes but not money.
The police department defends both tactics as legal and needed tools that have made the city safer. Police have targeted high-crime neighborhoods, which are disproportionately inhabited by minorities. Like Bloomberg, the PBA argues the measure impinges on state criminal law.
The law allows for officers to argue their conduct was justified, but the PBA says the standards for doing so aren’t clear.