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Court denies police union’s late attempt to join stop- and-frisk case

Stephon Johnson | 8/7/2014, 3:18 p.m.

Last week, a federal judge rejected the latest attempt by several police unions to intervene in a landmark stop-and-frisk lawsuit.

In Floyd v. City of New York, a class action lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-counsels Beldock, Levine & Hoffman and Covington & Burling, Federal District Judge Analisa Torres said the attempt by several New York City police unions (including the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association) to intervene was filed years too late, given the significance and wide notoriety surrounding the case. Torres also ruled that the unions have no distinct interest as a bargaining unit in the court’s finding of liability against the city or in the joint remedial process as ordered by the court.

A separate ruling involved the court accepting the agreement of the city and the counsel for the plaintiffs to drop the city’s pending appeal of the liability decision and proceed with the joint remedial process ordered by District Judge Shira Scheindlin last August. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio approved of the ruling.

“The Court’s decision today to formally approves the settlement to resolve the stop-and-frisk litigation is a major step in our efforts to repair police-community relations,” said de Blasio in a statement. “We remain committed to ensuring that every New Yorker is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve, while also creating more effective policing that will keep our neighborhoods and those who protect them safe.”

The court also accepted the parties’ proposed modification that the court-appointed monitor’s term will end in three years if the city achieves what it called “substantial compliance” with court-ordered reforms. Darius Charney, senior staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, said that the recent court decisions are just the starting point.

“Today’s ruling sets us on the road to beginning a joint reform process that fully engages the community and will bring true accountability to the NYPD,” said Charney in a statement. “For too long, communities of color have felt under siege by the police, and young Black and Latino men have disproportionately been the target. Now, community groups, faith leaders, unions and other stakeholders can come to the table and work collaboratively to create a city in which the rights of all New Yorkers are protected.”

Last August, a federal court ruled that the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices were unconstitutional. After the trial, Scheindlin (in a 198-page ruling) also found that the NYPD’s practices violate New Yorkers’ Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and that the practices were racially discriminatory, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. De Blasio, after becoming mayor, announced in January that the agreement would result in the city withdrawing its appeal, which was filed by former mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“The police unions should now stand down from their attempt to delay the implementation of meaningful reforms that the courts and the people of New York proved are necessary,” said co-counsel Jonathan Moore in a statement. “The remedial order gives the unions a seat at the table; thus, there was no need for them to seek intervention. We urge the police unions in the strongest terms to become a part of the solution to over-policing in this city and work with plaintiffs, the mayor’s office and affected communities toward positive change.”