Mayor de Blasio says New York will settle stop-and-frisk suits

Jan. 31, 2014 at 8:10 AM
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NEW YORK, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city reached a deal with civil rights lawyers over the police department's controversial stop-and-frisk policy.

De Blasio said Thursday the city will settle its legal battle over the New York Police Department's practice of stopping, questioning and often frisking people by agreeing to reforms a judge ordered in August, the New York Times reported.

"We're here today to turn the page on one of the most divisive problems in our city," de Blasio said during a news conference. "We believe in ending the overuse of stop-and-frisk that has unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men."

In the August ruling, U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin found that the department's stop-and-frisk tactics were unconstitutional and had become "a policy of indirect racial profiling." At its height, police stopped people -- mostly black and Latino men -- on more than 200,000 occasions, the Times said. The vast majority of those stopped and frisked were found to have done nothing wrong.

Going ahead as part of the agreement is Scheindlin's order to appoint a monitor to develop widespread reforms of the department's "policies, training, supervision, monitoring and discipline regarding stop-and-frisk."

"We will not break the law to enforce the law," New York Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said in a statement Thursday. "That's my solemn promise to every New Yorker, regardless of where they were born, where they live, or what they look like. Those values aren't at odds with keeping New Yorkers safe -- they are essential to long-term public safety."

Under the deal, the city formally asked the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which blocked Scheindlin's ruling, to return the matter to the U.S. District Court, the Times said. A judge will be asked to approve the agreement.

Once it is ratified, de Blasio said, "we will drop the appeal, and also with the court's approval, we will settle the case."

The process of developing reforms would then begin.

The Times also reported Bratton told his top chiefs he intends to alter a program that sent rookie officers into high-crime neighborhoods, known as Operation Impact. Bratton said he envisioned returning to the more traditional approach of placing rookies first in local precincts.

A record of the January meeting reviewed by the Times indicated Bratton said he wanted to "change the dynamic" of academy graduates who were given Operation Impact assignments, "where they really have an almost single-minded focus and really don't get a full flavor of the job."

"I think they would benefit from it, working with officers in traditional precinct assignments," he said.

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