Concerned that Suffolk County police officers may be engaged in racial profiling when stopping motorists, the New York Civil Liberties Union today served the Suffolk County Police Department with a formal request for department records identifying the race of all persons stopped since January 2005.
“Justice requires that police act on facts and evidence, not racial prejudice,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “When a driver in Suffolk County sees a siren in the rearview mirror, he shouldn’t have to worry if he has become a victim of racial harassment. The public has a right to know who’s being stopped and why.”
In 2006, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy told the Associated Press that the police department was conducting a study on the possibility that drivers were being profiled on the basis of race. The review was expected to document the race of drivers stopped for traffic violations over a period of eight to 14 months.
Under the New York Freedom of Information Law, the NYCLU is seeking the results of any study actually conducted by the county. The NYCLU’s request also seeks copies of any database of information about police stops, copies of any policies governing police stops and governing the information to be collected about those stops, and copies of any forms completed by officers making stops. The FOIL request filed by the NYCLU calls for production of these materials by Friday, May 16.
“It is my sincere hope that the police department embraces transparency and allows for independent analysis of its traffic stop practices,” said Seth Muraskin, director of the NYCLU’s Suffolk County Chapter. “Selective enforcement of the law is unfair to individual Suffolk County residents, and divisive to our community at large.”
The NYCLU is currently suing the New York City Police Department over its refusal to produce under FOIL a copy of its database of information of nearly one million stops and frisks that NYPD officers conducted in the last two years. That case, NYCLU v. NYPD, is currently pending in New York Supreme Court.