A New York City law easing racial profiling lawsuits against police could entangle them in lawsuits over elusive questions about what they were thinking when stopping someone, police unions told a judge Tuesday.
The unions faced off in a Manhattan court against lawyers for the city — now including Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, which has joined in defending a law that his predecessor sued to try to stop.
The 2013 law relaxes some legal standards for claims that the stop-and-frisk tactic or other police techniques were used in a discriminatory way. The measure reflected concerns about NYPD’s use of stop and frisk tactics and its surveillance of Muslims.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association want the law struck down. They say that it intrudes on state criminal law and that it has a troublingly vague definition of profiling: using race or certain other characteristics “as the determinative factor.”
“How do you decide what’s in the police officer’s mind as the deciding factor?” PBA lawyer James McGuire asked, calling the law a “trap that has so large a web that it could ensnare anyone.”
The city says that the law is valid and valuable.
“The suggestion that the statute was passed to instill fear in the heart of the New York City police department is laughable. It’s ridiculous,” said Andrew Celli, a lawyer representing the City Council. “Good cops have nothing to fear from [the law].”
State Supreme Court Justice Anil Singh didn’t indicate when he would rule.