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New York's new mayor agrees to reform stop-and-frisk police tactic

NEW YORK, N.Y. - New York City's new mayor moved Thursday to overhaul a police tactic that had been widely criticized as discriminating against minorities.

Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration filed court papers seeking to drop an appeal of a judge's decision ordering major reforms to the police department's stop-and-frisk policy. The judge ruled last year that the New York Police Department had discriminated against blacks and Hispanics with how it went about stopping, questioning and sometimes frisking people on the street. The judge ordered major reforms to the department's implementation of the policy.

Then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a staunch advocate of the policy, appealed the decision. Stops had soared under his 12-year tenure to more than 5 million in the past decade, mostly of black and Hispanic men. About 10 per cent of the stops result in arrests or summonses, and weapons were found about 2 per cent of the time.

De Blasio and his new police commissioner, William Bratton, have said the policy has created a rift among New Yorkers who don't trust police, and it's made morale low for officers who should be praised for stellar efforts reducing crime to record lows.

Four men sued the department in 2008, saying they were unfairly targeted because of their race. U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin presided over a 10-week bench trial where she heard testimony from a dozen New Yorkers who said they were wrongly stopped. She agreed and imposed a court-appointed monitor to oversee reforms, but her ruling has been on hold pending the appeal.

The federal appeals court also took the unusual step of removing Scheindlin from the case, saying she misapplied a related ruling that allowed her to take it to begin with and had spoken inappropriately publically about the case.

The stop-and-frisk tactic itself was not ruled unconstitutional; rather the way the department was using it violated civil rights, the judge said.

The papers filed in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said the city was seeking to return the case to a lower court for 45 days "for the purpose of exploring a full resolution."

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