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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a step today toward major changes at the nation's largest police force. De Blasio says the city will settle a long-running lawsuit against the New York Police Department's over its so-called Stop-and-Frisk tactics. A federal judge had ruled that the department civil rights of blacks and Latinos.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration appealed that ruling. Now de Blasio says the city will drop the appeal, as NPR's Joel Rose reports.
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Candidate Bill de Blasio roll to a landslide win in November, in part by vowing to, quote, "end the era of Stop-and-Frisk." And less than a month into the job, Mayor de Blasio is following through.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: We're here today to turn the page on one of the most divisive problems in our city.
ROSE: The legal fight over the Stop-and-Frisk has dragged on for over a decade. Critics charge the NYPD with stopping interesting to many young black and Latino men without a warrant, or even reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed. The Bloomberg administration defended the practice but de Blasio does not.
BLASIO: We believe in respecting every New Yorker's rights regardless of what neighborhood they live in or the color of their skin. And we believe in ending the overuse of Stop-and-Frisk that has unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men.
ROSE: De Blasio says his administration is prepared to accept the remedies ordered by federal Judge Shira Scheindlin last year. She found that the NYPD violated the Constitution when it stopped and frisked millions of New Yorkers who had2 committed no crimes. That ruling was on hold pending the former administration's appeal. But today, Mayor de Blasio announced an agreement to drop the appeal.
Vince Warren directs the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented the plaintiffs in the case.
VINCE WARREN: We have a tremendous opportunity to make our city better and safer. We must not squander it. We need to bring all the stakeholders to the table and work on real reforms with real accountability.
ROSE: Under the deal, the NYPD would be overseen by a federal monitor for three years but the reforms still have to be negotiated. Newly appointed Police Commissioner Bill Bratton says he's ready to work with the plaintiffs and community groups on the details.
BILL BRATTON: Constitutional, lawful policing, respectful policing ultimately is effective policing, and that's just not a trite phrase.
ROSE: Today's announcement was made in Brownsville, low-income section of Brooklyn that had one of the highest rates of Stop-and-Frisk in the city. Many Brooklyn residents say today's announcement was long overdue.
Trevor Hansberry(ph) says he's been stop dozens of times and hopes his children will have a very different relationship with the police.
TREVOR HANSBERRY: I have a son. I have an eight-year-old. I have a six-month-old. I think as young, black minorities, you need to be able to trust these authority figures.
ROSE: But other Brooklyn residents are worried that changes will lead to more crime. Regina Walker lives in Bedford Stuyvesant. She also police won't give up on Stop-and-Frisk altogether.
REGINA WALKER: They need to reform and to make it better. 'Cause, don't get me wrong, it works. But they carried away with it also. But it does work - they have a lot of guns off of the street.
ROSE: The police unions are worried, too. The Patrolmen Benevolent Association said in a statement, quote, "serious concerns," unquote, about whether these remedies will make it harder for police to do their jobs. But Mayor de Blasio rejects that argument.
BLASIO: I'd say it to any young person. I said it to any parent. I'd say it any senior citizen in Brownsville and any other community, this will make us safer.
ROSE: Right now, the city's crime rates are at historic lows. But if that changes de Blasio's critics may point back to today's announcement as one of the reasons
Joel Rose, NPR News, New York.
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