A federal court has reinstated a lawsuit brought forward by an NYPD veteran who claims he was harassed after he complained that his precinct maintained illegal quotas.

Craig Matthews first filed his lawsuit against the Bronx’s 42nd precinct in February 2012. He accused supervisors of implementing quotas for arrests, summonses and stop-and-frisks, tracked by color-coded files. The 14-year veteran alleged that he was punished and given poor evaluations for raising concerns. The case was dismissed in April but revived by a federal appeals court seven months later, only to be dismissed again by a Manhattan federal judge in 2013.

At the time, Judge Paul Engelmayer said that Matthews “spoke as an NYPD employee, not a citizen,” and that “his speech was more in the nature of an employee grievance than a political statement.” The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned that ruling, saying “Matthews’s speech to the precinct’s leadership in this case was not what he was ’employed to do,'” and that “he spoke as a citizen.” But Matthews still has a long battle ahead of him. As CBS explains, “the courts have yet to rule on the merits of Matthews’ suit, so far, the legal fight has centered on the extent of his First Amendment rights as a government worker.”

Still, the New York Civil Liberties Union, which represents Matthews, considered the decision a win. “Today’s decision protects the ability of police officers to speak out against this kind of misconduct when they see it,” said Christopher Dunn, the organization’s associate legal director. “New York City’s finest should be applauded when they expose abuse, not abused and retaliated against.”

The New York City Law Department is reviewing the decision.

(Photo: Dave Hosford)