In New York City, the country’s largest police force has been involved in a high-profile legal battle over its stop-and-frisk policy.
Few policies of outgoing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have been as controversial as stop-and-frisk, the tactic New York police use to stop people on the streets without a search warrant.
The police department says it’s been vital in catching criminals and reducing the city’s crime rate.
Critics dispute those claims and say the NYPD has disproportionately stopped, questioned, and frisked blacks and Latinos without probable cause.
A federal judge ruled in August that the New York Police Department routinely violated the civil rights of thousands of blacks and Latinos.
On Thursday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals put that ruling on hold and removed the judge from the case, saying she “ran afoul” of judicial conduct by failing to appear impartial.
Reforms to the stop-and-frisk policy won’t take place until the city’s appeal is heard in court next year with a new judge.
Speaking on New York radio station WOR on Friday, Bloomberg said he was satisfied with the latest ruling, which puts a hold on plans for an independent monitor to oversee reforms.
“We don’t want an outsider coming in who doesn’t know anything about crime fighting, putting the lives of our police officers and the lives of the public on the line,” Bloomberg said.
The ruling is a disappointment for Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which brought one of the lawsuits challenging the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics.
“It’s a setback undeniably,” Lieberman says. “But it’s really only a procedural ruling.”
Lieberman says her organization will appeal the ruling. So will the Center for Constitutional Rights, says attorney Sunita Patel.
“We’re not going to stop fighting discriminatory policing practices,” Patel says.
Patel and Lieberman say they’re also keeping their eyes on the political fate of one man — Bill de Blasio, the candidate who’s way ahead in New York’s mayor’s race.
“I’ve been saying for a long time: We need to get to work at reforming stop-and-frisk and bringing police and communities together,” De Blasio said at a press conference Thursday. “And further delay is not going to help the city heal and move forward.”
De Blasio, a Democrat, has been a vocal opponent of the stop-and-frisk policy, unlike his Republican challenger Joe Lhota, who says he stands by the current mayor and the NYPD.
New York voters head to the polls on Tuesday, when they’ll choose Bloomberg’s successor, and a key decider on the future of stop-and-frisk.