By Larry Neumeister
NEW YORK — The head of a nonprofit center for justice policy research was appointed Wednesday to organize public meetings and take other steps to ensure the city's stop-and-frisk policy by the nation's largest police department is carried out in a constitutional manner.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin assigned Nicholas Turner as a "facilitator" less than a month after ruling that aspects of the city's stop-and-frisk policy were unconstitutional and appointing a monitor to oversee immediate reforms.
She said Turner will consult with monitor Peter Zimroth as Turner guides a "joint remedial process" to create guidelines for the stop-and-frisk program based on input from town hall-style meetings in selected communities. The meetings will include police, residents, prosecutors, religious leaders, advocacy and grassroots organizations, school and housing leaders, and elected officials, among others.
Scheindlin said last month that the 35,000-officer police department was illegally and systematically singling out large numbers of blacks and Hispanics for frisks. City officials have insisted the program has helped dramatically reduce crime rates over the past two decades. The city is appealing.
Turner, an attorney, is president and director of the nonprofit VERA Institute of Justice. Scheindlin noted in an order that the Yale Law School graduate has managed a project on racial profiling in prosecution during nine years at VERA. As a managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation, he aided the racial and socioeconomics integration of post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.
Scheindlin said the city will be responsible for funding Turner and any staff.
"The city has appealed the case, so we feel it's inappropriate to comment further," the city law office said in a statement.
The judge said she wanted supplemental reforms because the Department of Justice has valued community input in cases in which justice was sought through the courts against police departments.
Last month, she said no amount of legal or policing expertise "can replace a community's understanding of the likely practical consequences of reforms in terms of both liberty and safety."
In a statement Wednesday, Turner said he was honored.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for the NYPD and its efforts to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers. I also have deep respect for the insight that can only come from the residents of the communities where stop-and-frisk is most practiced," he said.
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Copyright 2013 Associated Press