Culminating a campaign started by the New York Civil Liberties Union in 2007, Gov. David Paterson today signed legislation that will protect New Yorkers’ privacy rights by ending the NYPD’s practice of keeping a computer database of completely innocent people who have been stopped, questioned or frisked by police officers.
“We applaud Governor Paterson for pulling the plug on the NYPD’s sprawling database of innocent black and Latino New Yorkers,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “Innocent people stopped by the police for doing nothing more than going to school, work or the subway should not become permanent criminal suspects. By signing this bill, the Paterson administration has put itself on the right side of history and leaves an important legacy in support of civil rights, civil liberties and common sense.”
The new law, which was sponsored in the Legislature by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-57th AD) and Sen. Eric Adams (D-20th SD), prohibits the NYPD from storing in a computer database the names, addresses, Social Security numbers and other personal information of individuals who have been stopped and/or frisked by police and released without any further legal action.
“We commend Assemblyman Jeffries and Senator Adams for their leadership on this important issue,” said NYCLU Legislative Director Robert Perry. “Together they have taken an important stand for New Yorkers’ privacy and due process rights. The NYPD should take heed: It’s time to address the Department’s racially-biased, unjust and counterproductive stop-and-frisk practices.”
Since 2004, the NYPD has stopped and interrogated people nearly 3 million times, and the personal information of those stopped has 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. More than 80 percent were black or Latino. And nearly one in five people were subjected to the use of force by police.
“The governor’s signature on this bill should serve as a wakeup call to the mayor, the Police Department and all of New York’s elected officials: We have work to do,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn. “The NYPD must not continue its campaign of excessive and racially lopsided policing. The database legislation is just the start of what we must accomplish.”
The new law 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 database 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.