New York City will stop challenging a law making it easier to bring racial profiling cases against the police, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday, furthering his pledge to change the tenor of the nation’s largest police force.
The new mayor is abandoning a lawsuit over the measure weeks after deciding to drop the city’s appeal of a federal court order for changes to the NYPD’s use of the stop-question-and-frisk tactic. In both cases, he reversed ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s positions.
The decisions mark a sizable move toward resolving major court fights over the NYPD’s practices, but a police union plans to press on with its own suit against the anti-profiling law, and some other significant cases remain open.
De Blasio campaigned on promises to improve relations between police and residents, particularly minorities, who complained of heavy-handed treatment.
“There is absolutely no contradiction in protecting the public safety of New Yorkers and respecting their civil liberties. In fact, those two priorities must go hand-in-hand,” de Blasio said in a statement Wednesday.
Passed last summer over Bloomberg’s veto, the anti-profiling law eases some legal standards for claims that stop and frisk or espionage on Muslim gathering places were used in a discriminatory way. The suits could seek only policy changes, not money.
Bloomberg vigorously defended the tactics as legal, needed and effective tools to keep the city safe, and he said the anti-profiling law would ensnare police in second-guessing and lawsuits. He sued the City Council, and police unions joined the fight.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association filed its own suit. President Patrick Lynch said Wednesday he would “continue the litigation to protect our police officers and the city from the effects of this misguided law.”
The city’s chief lawyer, Zachary Carter, says the city will defend cops who act according to the department’s guidelines. But the union has argued the law would endanger officers by making them hesitant to use stop and frisk and other techniques.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the law’s sponsors, Councilmen Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams, hailed de Blasio’s decision to drop the suit, as did Al Sharpton.
De Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton recently unveiled new training guidelines advising police to introduce themselves and “be patient,” among other things.