MANHATTAN (CN) – Blasting police unions for a “collateral attack on the democratic process,” appellate judges removed the final roadblock preventing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio from fulfilling a campaign promise not to appeal court-ordered stop-and-frisk reform.
Black and Latino New Yorkers in the case of Floyd v. The City of New York have fought for six years against racial profiling in street stops.
After a closely watched trial last year, a judge found it unconstitutional for the police to target and frisk minorities such as the lead plaintiff in the class action, a black medical student who was about a block away from his home when police allegedly reached into his pockets.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin mandated that police clamp down on discrimination in stops by wearing body cameras, filling out more paperwork and submitting to a court monitor.
Fighting these measures tooth and nail, then-exiting Mayor Michael Bloomberg impugned Scheindlin’s impartiality and launched an appeal.
De Blasio promised to bring this counteroffensive to an end in his mayoral campaign against social inequality symbolized by a “Tale of Two Cities,” but several police unions never signed on to his plans.
The Detectives’ Endowment Association and other groups sought to intervene in a federal court, and then appealed that decision after losing before a new judge, Analisa Torres.
A unanimous 2nd Circuit ruling on Friday skewered the unions’ attempt to scuttle the city’s deal.
In a 30-page opinion, the judges wrote that “granting the unions’ motions in the wake of the November 2013 mayoral election would essentially condone a collateral attack on the democratic process and could erode the legitimacy of decisions made by the democratically-elected representatives of the people.”
Judges Barrington Parker, Jose Cabrenes and John Walker, who co-authored the opinion, made similar points during oral arguments in the case earlier this month.
They agreed that they had “serious reservations about the prospect of allowing a public-sector union to encroach upon a duly-elected government’s discretion to settle a dispute against it,” in the opinion.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the advocacy group that brought the underlying lawsuit, noted that the city withdrew its appeal immediately following the release of the decision this morning.
“Today’s ruling confirms the unions cannot claim they are harmed by court orders simply requiring them to comply with the Constitution,” the CCR’s legal director Baher Azmy said in a statement. “Now, after the unions’ unnecessary obstructionism, all New Yorkers can work together to end racially discriminatory policing and bring meaningful reform and accountability to the NYPD.”
Zachary Carter, a lawyer for the New York City Law Department, confirmed that the decision “clears the way for implementation of the remedial measures” that the city agreed to enact, but he did not comment on what the timeline for rolling out these reforms might be.
The Detectives’ Endowment Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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