New York City

De Blasio takes steps toward reforming ‘stop-and-frisk’ policy

March 5, 2014 By Charisma L. Miller, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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New York City’s new mayor is continuing his campaign promise to reform the controversial law enforcement policy that is alleged to allow police officers to accost individuals on the basis of race and ethnicity, reversing a trend set by the former mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that the city of New York will dismiss its lawsuit against recently passed legislation banning “bias-based” profiling in law enforcement. While the New York City Police Department has repeatedly stated that it does not utilize bias-based profiling in the exercise of its functions, the recent litigation, Floyd v. City of New York, against the city and NYPD for its supposed use of racial profiling in its stop and frisk policy brought that very issue into question in the introduction and passage of the Community Safety Act (CSA)—codified as Local Law 71.

The CSA instituted a set of legislation that establishes an Inspector General to oversee the New York Police Department’s practices and policies and establishes an enforceable ban on bias-based profiling within the NYPD.  The CSA also provides a means for persons who believe they have been unjustly profiled by the NYPD to bring legal action.

In addition, the law further expands the prohibition of bias-based profiling to cover age, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, disability and housing status.

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The 2013 legislation garnered significant support from Brooklyn elected officials. “For years, New Yorkers have called for respectful policing and safer streets — and tonight, we won,” Councilmembers Jumaane D. Williams (D-Flatbush) and Brad Lander (D-Park Slope) said in a statement at the time.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg vehemently opposed the CSA, filing an instant appeal to the legislation. The law was enacted by the New York City Council after overturning a mayoral veto. It was challenged by the Bloomberg administration in court in September 2013.

When elected to office this past November, Mayor de Blasio had pledged to drop the litigation as part of a series of reforms to a broken stop-and-frisk policy and to help rebuild the relationship between police and community.

“There is absolutely no contradiction in protecting the public safety of New Yorkers and respecting their civil liberties. In fact, those two priorities must go hand-in-hand,” de Blasio said in a statement.

“Discrimination has no place in New York City, and it especially should not be carried out by those we count on to protect and keep us safe,” stated Brooklyn Councilmember Steven Levin (D-Downtown), who commended de Blasio on his decision. “By ending this lawsuit, Mayor de Blasio is protecting civil liberties and strengthening the relationship between New Yorkers and the NYPD. ”

The bill’s co-sponsors, Williams and Lander, have expressed their appreciation for de Blasio commitment to stop-and-frisk reform. “We commend the de Blasio administration for announcing its intent to drop the city’s appeal in the suit against this important legislation — a move that will continue the process of mending relations between the NYPD and communities,” the pair said in a joint statement joined by Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito.

Addressing concerns that the CSA would allow for frivolous racial profiling lawsuits, the co-sponsors noted  that “[i]ndividuals can seek “injunctive or declaratory relief,” including changes in NYPD policy and practices, but cannot bring claims for monetary damages.

“No New Yorker should ever face discrimination based on the color of his or her skin,” said de Blasio. “We are going to be explicit in setting fair and effective standards that prevent bias in any form.”

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