NYC Police Unions Seek Role in Stop-Frisk Suit

NEW YORK -

Concerned that Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will drop a lawsuit to allow continuing the stop-question-and-frisk tactic, police unions on Thursday asked a federal appeals court to let them continue the litigation instead of the city.

The unions representing more than 29,000 of the NYPD’s 35,000 members filed papers with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for standing to continue challenges to two court rulings. Those found that officers sometimes violated the Constitution when carrying out the stop-and-frisk policy.

“In order to ensure that our members have a voice in this critically important proceeding we are filing a motion to intervene in the second circuit court of appeals today,” said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the largest union.

“The outcome of this appeal will directly affect the reputation of all NYC police officers.”

De Blasio, currently the public advocate, has said he would drop the appeal but could also settle with those urging reforms, eliminating federal oversight.

Federal judge Shira Scheindlin, who ruled the tactic unconstitutional since it discriminated against blacks, was removed from the case last week after the appeals court found that she “ran afoul” of judicial ethics. The court said she had misapplied a ruling that allowed her to preside over the cases and had made statements in media interviews that jeopardized the appearance of judicial objectivity.

Scheindlin had also mandated a monitor to oversee the NYPD and ordered cops to begin wearing helmet-mounted cameras to record their interactions. Last week’s appeals court ruling put a stay to it until the new judge they appointed, Analisa Torres, rules.

On Wednesday, Scheindlin’s lawyer asked the three-judge appeals panel to reconsider her removal, saying the judges had offended due process by not letting her defend herself.

Scheindlin issued a statement last week saying she had properly presided over the cases because they were related to a previous case she had heard. She did not address media reports that she was the one who suggested the four plaintiffs bring the class-action lawsuit in the first place.

She also explained that she consented to interviews under the condition that she wouldn’t comment on the ongoing case. “And I did not,” she said.

Meanwhile, speculation over de Blasio’s police commissioner has centered on two men.

The main issue is how to manage de Blasio’s stated desire for close police–community relations without reining in cops’ ability to fight crime.

“De Blasio’s got a tough road ahead of him,” said John Eterno, a retired NYPD cop. “He’s got to pick somebody who will fit with his views but still combat crime and terrorism.”

Insiders, reports the Daily News, want either William Bratton, a police chief in the Giuliani administration, or current chief of department Philip Banks III, the highest-ranking black cop on the force.

Bratton has openly auditioned for the job, and de Blasio has mentioned him several times on the campaign trail to defend his view that ending what he calls the “abuse” of stop-frisk will not bring a spike in crime.

However, some think de Blasio may choose Banks, who as the former head of the Community Affairs Bureau helped strengthen ties with minority communities.