a federal appeals court overruled a judge's prior decision and reinstated an NYPD officer's lawsuit that claims his First Amendment rights were violated when he was punished for speaking out against quotas.
Officer Craig Matthews, a 14-year veteran of the department, claims that he was denied overtime and leave, given retributive assignments, separated from his longtime partner and subjected to harassment and intimidation. “Quotas…undermine trust between the police and the community they are supposed to protect,” Matthews's counsel, NYCLU associate legal director Chris Dunn said in a statement. "Officer Matthews chose to expose this corruption, and instead of commending him, the Police Department made his life miserable."
An attorney with the Law Department, Marta Ross, told the Times, “We are disappointed in the court’s decision," but added, "We believe that we’ll be successful at the case’s conclusion." The federal judge who dismissed Matthews's suit in April wrote that because Matthews's complaints were made "pursuant to his job duties" they did not fall under the protection of the First Amendment.
But on Wednesday, the federal appeals court for the Second Circuit ruled that it wasn't yet clear that Matthews's complaints were only relevant to his job, and that in order to sue under the First Amendment he has to prove that he was speaking “as a citizen addressing matters of public concern.”
The quota system that Matthews spoke out against—and that the NYPD and city officials continue to deny exists despite an overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary—allegedly involved a color-coded list of goals officers were required to meet. Failing officers saw their names circled in red ink.
Matthews was one of the officers who responded to the shootings outside the Empire State Building this summer, and discharged his weapon at the assailant.