By Chris Dolmetsch
A New York City law that allows citizens to bring lawsuits against police officers for racial profiling was upheld by a state judge, dismissing a lawsuit filed by public safety unions challenging the measure.
The law "does not prevent police officers from continuing to stop, question and frisk while utilizing their training and experience," Justice Anil Singh said in a ruling dated today.
"The law only seeks to deter the use of attributes such as race as the sole basis for an investigatory stop which is antithetical to our constitution and our values," Singh said.
The City Council in September overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of two bills, one permitting the racial profiling suits and another imposing an inspector general to oversee police practices.
The two laws were passed after a federal judge ruled in August that New York police violated the U.S. Constitution in stop-and-frisk encounters with hundreds of thousands of mostly young black and Hispanic men.
The mayor’s office sued the City Council in September, seeking to overturn the racial-profiling law. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, a union representing police officers, sued the following month.
"We strongly disagree with the judge’s decision and we intend to appeal it," Patrick J. Lynch, the association’s president, said today in an e-mail. "This law sends an extremely bad message to our police officers who will see themselves in legal cross hairs with every arrest they make."
Fulfilling a campaign promise when he took office in January, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city had reached a settlement with the plaintiffs who sued in federal court to stop the police department’s stop-and-frisk practice and other measures. Bloomberg had credited stop-and-frisk with driving down crime during his 12-year tenure.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York in February granted De Blasio’s request to return the case to a district judge to allow the parties to explore a resolution.
"This law provides an important opportunity for New Yorkers who are subject to racial profiling or other discriminatory behavior the opportunity to vindicate their rights and make real reform without allowing anyone to sue for financial gain," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which wasn’t a party to the suit.
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