Unions Should Rethink Opposition: Stop-and-Frisk Reforms In Cops’ Best Interests

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The Chief

by Anthony Miranda, Executive Chairman of the National Latino Officers Association and retired NYPD officer


The struggle over New York City’s stop-and-frisk practices has been a long and dramatic one, played out in the streets, in the City Council and, of late, in a series of highly unusual court maneuvers and counter-maneuvers.
 
Since the landmark ruling in the successful class action Floyd v. City of New York in August, we have seen the unprecedented removal of the judge from the case by a panel of the appeals court followed by a desperate Hail Mary attempt by the city to have the panel vacate her entire decision, a move the panel dismissed. On top of that, the police unions filed to join the case in the appeal, which the plaintiffs opposed.
 
 
Unfounded Fears
 
I cannot speak to the finer points of the law being argued by the city and the plaintiffs’ lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights, but I can speak from direct experience to the claims being made by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the Lieutenants’ Benevolent Association, the Captains’ Endowment Association, the Detectives’ Endowment Association and the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association. And as a retired NYPD Sergeant who was a member of three of these unions for a total of 20 years, I can say that those claims are unfounded, short-sighted and ultimately not in the interests of the NYPD’s rank and file.
 
The unions asked to intervene in the appeal of the lawsuit by claiming the reforms ordered by the court in the Floyd case will interfere with their collective-bargaining rights. However, the reforms—which have yet to be hammered out in any detail, and many of which will come through a collaborative process that involves police as well as community members—are in areas that have never been part of collective bargaining.
 
The content of police training on the law, for instance, has never been the province of union-management negotiations. Similarly, changes to paperwork (like adding a section to the form, known as the UF-250, that officers have to fill out explaining why they stopped someone) happen all the time in the NYPD and are never part of bargaining. Indeed, changes to the UF-250 have happened several times in the past, and there was never any discussion of the unions’ right to bargain over them. Changes to how police are trained on the law or the paperwork they fill out will not diminish any of the hard-won rights of the city’s cops.
 
Wasn’t Issue In Past
 
The current concern over collective-bargaining rights is suspiciously convenient, as it is the only basis the PBA and other unions could argue for being part of the stop-and-frisk appeal. A glance through the PBA’s newsletters reveals that collective-bargaining rights have not been part of the union’s talking points on stop-and-frisk until now, though it has been very clear in its opposition to reform.
 
What the unions should actually recognize is that reform is in their members’ best interests. Implementation of the court’s order, including a monitor to oversee the reforms, will improve broken police-community relations, which in turn will make cops’ jobs easier and safer. I have personally spoken to numerous active members of the NYPD about the court’s decision and the remedies it has ordered, and Police Officers, Sergeants and Lieutenants all expressed relief that the decision will bring about an end to the pressure on members to make unlawful stops in order to meet “performance goals”—the department’s sanitized term for quotas. Why the unions would not support a process that could help their members get out from under bean-counting requirements and make their jobs easier and relationships with the communities they serve better is a mystery to me.