An update on my May 22 post on the NYPD stop and frisk case: the U.S. Department of Justice has filed a “statement of interest” in the case to say that if the judge rules against the NYPD, the preferred remedy would be an independent monitor to implement changes and make sure they take root.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Mayor Michael Bloomberg reacted by saying that appointing an independent monitor for the NYPD would be a “terrible idea.”
Independent monitors are common in cases in which the federal government has sued police departments to impose needed reforms to stop patterns or practices of constitutional rights violations in those departments. For example, police departments in Seattle, Detroit, and East Haven, Connecticut currently have federal monitors; federal monitors have been used in now-completed cases in Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and other cities. Samuel Walker, professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska, explained in the Wall Street Journal article that “monitoring the department would entail a team of people who would conduct audits of reports officers must file for every stop…The team would follow up by interviewing officers and their supervisors about the stops and filing reports to the judge.”
The DOJ Statement of Interest is not binding on the judge; in fact, the DOJ is not a party in the lawsuit. It was simply used by the DOJ to say that IF the judge found the NYPD to have violated the Constitution (she has made no finding yet), the proper remedy for the violation should include an independent monitor.