A judge on Wednesday denied a legal challenge by two police unions to a controversial New York City law that eases the way suspects stopped and frisked by police to file racial profiling claims.
“Local Law 71 does not prevent police officers from continuing to stop, question, and frisk while utilizing their training and experience,” wrote state Supreme Court Justice Anil Singh. “The law only seeks to deter the use of attributes such as race as the sole basis for an investigatory stop which is antithetical to our constitution and values.”
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 Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the Sergeants Benevolent Association wanted the law struck down, saying it intruded on state criminal law and that it had a troublingly vague
definition of profiling: using race or certain other characteristics “as the determinative factor” in policing.
The unions also contended the law could entangle them in lawsuits over elusive questions about what they were thinking when stopping someone.
The council passed the law last summer over then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto. Bloomberg vehemently defended both the surveillance and stop and frisk as legal and vital public safety tools, and he said the anti-profiling law would make it more difficult for police to do their jobs.
He sued the City Council, as did the PBA.
Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped Bloomberg’s suit, saying there was “absolutely no contradiction in protecting the public safety of New Yorkers and respecting their civil liberties.” He also has abandoned the city’s appeal of a federal court order demanding changes to the NYPD’s use of stop and frisk.
“We are pleased with the Court’s decision,” a spokesman for the city’s law department said on Wednesday.
PBA president Patrick J. Lynch disagreed with the judge’s decision, saying the union plans to appeal.
“This law sends an extremely bad message to our police officers who will see themselves in legal crosshairs with every arrest they make,” Lynch said in a statement. “Potentially, this bad law can have a very serious impact on public safety.”