NEW YORK (AP) — Police unions told a federal appeals court Friday that they want the courts to decide whether a judge properly ordered changes to the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program even if the city no longer wants to challenge her rulings.
Unions representing most of the 35,000 members of the nation's largest police force told the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that they would like to continue the case despite the city's recent announcement that it wanted to drop its appeal and settle the case in the lower court.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last month that the city would agree to the appointment of a monitor to oversee a process to reform stop-and-frisk tactics after U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin concluded last summer that the crime-reduction program was sometimes carried out in a discriminatory manner and that a monitor was necessary. De Blasio's administration also asked the 2nd Circuit to drop its appeal, which was made by his predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
When the city made its request, the appeals court invited the unions to submit written arguments saying why they oppose the city's request to return the case to the lower court for an eventual settlement.
"The court entered findings that unfairly besmirch the reputations of the men and women of the NYPD, imposed facially overbroad remedies, and exposed the NYPD to an unwarranted and indefinite period of federal supervision," according to papers submitted to the appeals court on behalf of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the Detectives Endowment Association, the Lieutenants Benevolent Association and the Captains' Endowment Association.
"The contemplated injunction would directly burden the officers' daily work and would impair the police unions' collective bargaining and other rights," lawyers for the unions said.
In separate papers, the Sergeants Benevolent Association said a dismissal of the city's appeal "would leave in force the two grossly flawed opinions" from Scheindlin.
It said its members were "among the most harshly criticized individual NYPD officers mentioned in the opinions" and "deserve the opportunity to defend and vindicate themselves through this appeal."
The unions also invited the 2nd Circuit to vacate Scheindlin's rulings as a condition of approval for any agreement reached between the city and plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging the stop-and-frisk procedures.
The unions said they have been injured by the rulings because "their daily work lives will be changed substantially if the remedies embodied in the district court's order — now to be embodied in a consent decree — are ever to be implemented."
Last year, the 2nd Circuit took the unusual step of removing Scheindlin from the case, saying she misapplied a related ruling that allowed her to accept it to begin with and had inappropriately spoken publicly about the case. Lawyers for the judge have challenged her removal.
Baher Azmy, legal director of the civil liberties group Center for Constitutional Rights, which had argued on behalf of those challenging the stop-and-frisk tactics, said of the unions: "Mere disagreement doesn't give them the right to intervene in a legal case."
He said the remedial process ordered by Scheindlin includes the police unions, giving them a voice in any reforms.