A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked a judge’s order requiring changes to the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program, and removed the judge from the case, agreeing with the Bloomberg administration that she had the appearance of partiality.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the decisions of Judge Shira Scheindlin will be stayed pending the outcome of an appeal by the city.
The judge had ruled in August the city violated the Constitution in the way it carried out its program of stopping and questioning people. The city appealed her findings and her remedial orders, including a decision to assign a monitor to help the police department change its policy and training program associated with it.
The appeals court heard arguments Tuesday on the requested stay and said Wednesday that the judge needed to be removed from the case because she ran afoul of the code of conduct for U.S. judges.
They said that she compromised the need for a judge to avoid the appearance of partiality in part because of a series of media interviews and public statements in which she responded publicly to criticism of the court.
The judge had ruled that police officers violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of people by wrongly targeting black and Hispanic men with the stop-and-frisk program. She appointed an outside monitor to oversee major changes, including reforms in policies, training and supervision, and she ordered a pilot program to test cameras worn on the body in some precincts where most stops occur.
Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio, who is leading in polls, has sharply criticized and promised to reform the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk technique, saying it unfairly targets minorities. He said he was “extremely disappointed” in Thursday’s decision.
“We have to end the overuse of stop-and-frisk, and any delay only means a continued and unnecessary rift between our police and the people they protect,” he said in a statement.
However, Republican Joe Lhota praised the ruling in a statement beginning with the word, “Bravo!”
“As I have said all along, Judge Scheindlin’s biased conduct corrupted the case and her decision was not based on the facts,” he said. “…This was a critical first step toward uncuffing the NYPD, but we cannot stop here. The next mayor absolutely must continue this appeal.”
Stop-and-frisk has been around for decades in some form, but recorded stops under the administration of independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg increased dramatically in 2011 to an all-time high of 684,330, mostly black and Hispanic men. A lawsuit was filed in 2004 by four men, all minorities, and became a class-action case.
Supporters of the program say the changes would lower police morale but not crime, waste money, and fail to solve the broader problem of a police force under pressure after shrinking by thousands of officers during the last decade.
The reason so many members of minority groups were stopped was because police focused on high-crime areas, which happen to be minority neighborhoods.