NEW YORK (AP) — A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked a judge's order requiring changes to a New York Police Department stop-and-search tactic that has been widely criticized by rights advocates as targeting black and Hispanic men.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also removed Judge Shira Scheindlin from the case. She ruled in August that the city violated the Constitution in the way it carried out its program of stopping and questioning people. She ruled that police in America's largest city violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of people by wrongly targeting black and Hispanic men.

She also appointed an outside monitor to oversee major changes and ordered a pilot program to test body-worn cameras in some areas where most stops occur. She noted she wasn't ending the so-called stop-and-frisk practice, which is constitutional, but was reforming the way the NYPD implemented its stops.

The city appealed her findings and her orders to change the program.

The appeals court said the judge needed to be removed because she violated the code of conduct for U.S. judges by compromising the necessity for a judge to avoid the appearance of partiality, in part because of a series of media interviews and public statements.

Stop-and-frisk has been around for decades in some form, but recorded stops increased dramatically under the administration of current Mayor Michael Bloomberg to an all-time high in 2011 of 684,330, mostly of black and Hispanic men. A lawsuit was filed in 2004 by four men, all minorities, and became a class action case.

Opponents of changes to the stop-and-frisk program say they would lower police morale but not crime.


Associated Press writer Larry Neumeister contributed.