NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge’s conclusion that New York City police officers sometimes violate the constitution when they stop and frisk people has made officers “passive and scared” to use the crime-fighting tactic, lawyers warned a federal appeals panel Tuesday as they asked that the ruling be suspended while it is appealed.
The three-judge 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asked plenty of questions but did not immediately rule in a case that may be affected in a major way by next week’s mayoral election. Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio, who is leading in polls, has sharply criticized and promised to reform the police department’s stop-and-frisk technique, saying it unfairly targets minorities.
Attorney Celeste L. Koeleveld, arguing for the city, said officers are “hesitant, unfortunately” to use the tactic anymore.
Attorney Daniel Connolly, making legal points on behalf of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, told judges that city officers were “defensive, passive and scared” about using the technique.
“This decision is bad law,” he said. “No one counts on federal judges to keep us safe on the streets.”
Attorney Courtney Saleski, arguing on behalf of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, noted that stop and frisks were down 50 percent in the first six months of this year compared with a year earlier. She said officers were afraid stops violate the constitution.
“That means constitutional stops are being chilled and that’s not good for the safety of the community,” she said.
But lead plaintiffs’ attorney Darius Charney for the nonprofit legal advocate Center for Constitutional Rights noted that the drop in stop and frisks came even before the judge ruled and said it was accompanied by a drop in murders and other crimes.
And Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said it would be premature for the appeals court to stay the effect of the lower-court ruling because the police department thus far has not been required to make any changes to the program.