A judge has upheld a law that was approved by the New York City Council last year, which will make it easier for citizens to sue police officers for racial profiling.
State Supreme Court Justine Anil Singh released a decision on Wednesday that will keep the Community Safety Act in tact.
The legislation serves as the latest victory in the battle against racial profiling and the NYPD stop-and-frisk policy.
According to ChangeTheNYPD.org, the Community Safety Act will “expand” protections against discrimination by banning profiling based on race, gender, sexual orientation, housing status and immigration status.
The legislation also gives citizens the “private right of action” if they believe they were discriminated against during a stop-and-frisk encounter and establishes “independent oversight of the NYPD.”
NYPD officials argued that the City Council’s decision overstepped the boundaries of its power because only the state has the authority to regulate stop-and-frisk procedures.
According to Singh, however, the City Council acted within its legal limits in creating the legislation as it was regulating the rights of public citizens, and not affecting law enforcement policy.
“Local Law 71 does not prevent police officers from continuing to stop, question and frisk while utilizing their training and experience,” Singh wrote in a 35-page decision that surfaced on Wednesday. “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 values.”
Singh did acknowledge that officers have to make “split-second decisions” when conducting investigative stops, but said that still didn’t justify the disproportionate numbers of stop-and-frisk encounters that minorities faced from 2002 to 2010.
Only about 10 percent of the stop-and-frisk encounters during that time resulted in an arrest.
“This law provides an important opportunity for New Yorkers who are subjected to racial profiling or other discriminatory behavior, the opportunity to vindicate their rights,” Singh added in the decision.
Donna Lieberman, president of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that upholding the legislation is just as important for police officers as it is for citizens.
“It is a victory for all New Yorkers, including the police, because it is building trust and respect between officers and the communities they serve,” Lieberman said in a public statement.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was “pleased with the court’s decision,” but some NYC officers feel it will threaten public safety.
“This law sends an extremely bad message to our police officers who will see themselves in legal crosshairs with every arrest they make,” said Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. “Potentially, this bad law can have a very serious impact on public safety.”
Joo-Hyun Kang, spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, applauded the State Supreme Court justice for rejecting the arguments from the police union.
“New Yorkers know that it should be unlawful for police to target them solely based on who they are – whether race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, housing or immigration status – and today the court confirmed it,” Kang said.
Lynch said that the PBA plans to appeal Singh’s decision.