The New York Civil Liberties Union today applauded the State Assembly for passing legislation 86-50 that will protect New Yorkers’ privacy and due process rights by barring the NYPD from keeping a computer database of completely innocent people who have been stopped, questioned or frisked by police officers. The vote clears the way for Gov. David Paterson to sign the measure into law.
“Today’s vote sends the mayor and Police Department a clear message: It’s time to address the NYPD’s racially-biased and counterproductive stop-and-frisk practices,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “The Legislature has stood up for the privacy and due process rights of all New Yorkers. No one who is unjustly stopped, questioned or frisked should end up in a sprawling police database. With a pen stroke, Governor Paterson can now end this injustice once and for all.”
The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-57th AD) and Sen. Eric Adams (D-20th SD), targets the NYPD’s practice of maintaining a vast computer database of the names, addresses and other personal information of people who are stopped, questioned and frisked by NYPD officers but are not arrested or issued a summons – nearly 90 percent of those stopped by the NYPD are innocent of any wrongdoing, yet the Department retains their personal information.
Since 2004, the NYPD has stopped and interrogated people nearly 3 million times, and the names and addresses of those stopped have been entered into the department’s database, regardless of whether the person had done anything wrong. Last year, NYPD officers stopped and questioned or frisked people more than 575,000 times, the most ever. Nearly nine out of 10 of those stopped and questioned by police last year were neither arrested nor issued a summons. And more than 80 percent were black or Latino.
The bill, which passed the Senate last Wednesday, still allows police to keep electronic databases of generic information about stop-and-frisk encounters, such as the gender and race of individuals stopped, and the location of the stops. This data is necessary to independently analyze the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk activity and identify whether officers are engaging in a pattern of racial profiling.
The legislation complements a lawsuit filed by the NYCLU in May challenging the NYPD’s refusal to clear its stop-and-frisk database of individuals who were stopped by police, arrested or issued a summons, and subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing. The lawsuit, which is ongoing, maintains that this practice violates the state’s sealing statute.
“Our lawsuit and this bill share a common purpose – preventing innocent people from being treated like criminal suspects because they were walking while black or brown,” Lieberman said. “It shouldn’t take legislation and litigation to address this injustice.”