We were thrilled to see the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit put on hold the so-called “remedies” Judge Shira Scheindlin had tried to impose on the Police Department after wrongly determining that it intentionally discriminates against minorities when stopping and frisking people officers deem suspicious.
As this page said after Scheindlin made her ruling last summer, the judge had not taken a fair view of the case from the start. Breaking judicial standards, she had made sure she was the one who got to hear it, had put excessive weight in the testimony of the plaintiffs’ expert witness while dismissing the city’s own expert, and had made comments to the press that revealed she sees judging as a way to write the laws as she sees fit, rather than just determine if they’ve been broken. Scheindlin clearly sought to set Police Department policy, just as her fellow U.S. Judge Nicholas Garaufis set some Fire Department policy, to the detriment of members and the public alike. And she went even further than he had.
Now the Court of Appeals has agreed that Scheindlin did not display the impartiality required of judges and stayed her order, under which she was going to force some officers to wear miniature cameras on their uniforms to record interactions with suspects, seat yet another monitor to oversee the department and have a panel of 12 academics, almost all of them having an outlook on policing like her own, also keep an eye on what cops are doing.
All this would be a massive administrative boondoggle that would hamper crime fighting, as Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and the NYPD’s unions have all been saying. So the city appealed and the Appeals Court not only delayed her order but took the extraordinary step of dismissing her from the case entirely.
One problem: The appeal will not be resolved before Bloomberg leaves office, and Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio is on Scheindlin’s side, not that of the police or the public, who said in a recent poll that crime fighting is more important than reforming stop and frisk (which has already been reformed, by the way, and is being reined in even more by new city legislation).
So the police unions are also looking to appeal the case, as are former Mayor Giuliani and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey. We hope all are granted standing, because even if de Blasio thinks it’s OK to put the NYPD under judicial and academic control, it’s not. This is one area where we hope our incoming mayor, who brings much promise to the office, will flip flop once he has to actually govern. If not, we hope our former mayor and the others will prevail. We cannot handcuff the police.