New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a settlement agreement Thursday that would resolve a lawsuit challenging controversial "stop and frisk" searches by city police.
A federal judge found police unconstitutionally discriminated against minorities with the searches and imposed oversight last year, but that opinion was stayed pending appeal. De Blasio was elected mayor Nov. 5 after campaigning aggressively against the practice.
The settlement unveiled by de Blasio Thursday during a Brooklyn press conference would – if approved by courts – yield a court-appointed monitor who for a three-year term would report on progress toward eliminating alleged racial discrimination.
"This is a defining moment in our history. It's a defining moment for millions of our families, especially those with young men of color. And it will lay the foundation for not only keeping us the safest big city in America, but making us safer still," de Blasio said. "This will be one city, where everyone's rights are respected, and where police and community stand together to confront violence."
De Blasio, in office since Jan. 1, made the announcement alongside his appointed New York City Police Department commissioner, Bill Bratton.
"We will not break the law to enforce the law," Bratton said. "That's my solemn promise to every New Yorker, regardless of where they were born, where they live, or what they look like."
Media outlets reported earlier in the day that de Blasio's office had filed paperwork with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to return the case to U.S. District Court for resolution.
The filing does not ensure an outcome. In November police unions representing 29,000 of the NYPD's 35,000 members filed court papers seeking to intervene in the case to ensure a court-issued resolution.
The pending court case was brought by alleged victims of racial discrimination, some of whom attended the de Blasio press conference.
U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin found Aug. 12 the city's police frisking policy "encourages the targeting of young black and Hispanic men based on their prevalence in local crime complaints" and "is a form of racial profiling."
The judge appointed an independent monitor charged with making reforms and ordered a pilot program of officers wearing cameras in some neighborhoods.
"The NYPD's practice of making stops that lack individualized reasonable suspicion has been so pervasive and persistent as to become not only a part of the NYPD's standard operating procedure, but a fact of daily life in some New York City neighborhoods," Scheindlin ruled, finding police frisked 2.3 million people between 2004 and 2012, and that no weapon was found in 98.5 percent of cases.
Then New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg appealed the decision and a three-judge appeals court panel removed Scheindlin from the case Oct. 31, finding she improperly steered the case toward her docket and improperly gave interviews during the trial.
"Stop and frisk" searches were found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1968 case Terry v. Ohio, provided police have a reasonable and articulable suspicion the person is armed.