In settling a state lawsuit today filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Bloomberg administration has agreed to end the NYPD’s practice of storing in an electronic database the names and addresses of people who are stopped by police officers, arrested or issued a summons, and subsequently cleared of criminal wrongdoing. The NYPD has been using the database for years to target New Yorkers for criminal investigations merely because they had been stopped.
The city also agreed to erase from the NYPD database within 90 days the names and addresses of all people who have been stopped, arrested or issued a summons and whose cases were either dismissed or resolved with a fine for a noncriminal violation.
"Though much still needs to be done, this settlement is an important step towards curbing the impact of abusive stop and frisk practices," said Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the NYCLU and lead counsel in the case. "It was wrong and illegal for the police department to be keeping these names and addresses in the stop-and-frisk database, and this settlement puts an end to that practice."
The lawsuit, Lino v. City of New York, was filed in May 2010 on behalf of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers whose personal information is kept in the NYPD stop-and-frisk database even though state laws require that all police records of their stop-and-frisk encounters be sealed and not be available to any public or private agency once their cases are dismissed.
"New Yorkers who are the victims of unjustified police stops will no longer suffer the further injustice of having their personal information stored indefinitely in an NYPD database," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. "This settlement finally clears the names of hundreds of thousands of people whose only crime was that they were stopped and frisked by NYPD officers."
The lead plaintiffs, Clive Lino and Daryl Khan, are New York City residents who have been stopped and frisked by police officers, issued summonses, and subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing.
During a stop-and-frisk encounter in the Bronx in April 2009, NYPD officers threw Lino against a wall, frisked him, handcuffed him and searched his pockets. The police officers issued him summonses for spitting in public and possessing an open container. Both were dismissed.
"It is a relief to know that my personal information will be cleared from the stop-and-frisk database," said Lino, a black man who has been stopped at least 13 times by NYPD officers. "It is humiliating enough to be stopped and frisked for no reason, having your name and address kept in a police database only prolongs the indignity of it."
Khan, a freelance journalist who covered the NYPD for more than a decade, was riding his bike at the corner of Tompkins Avenue and Park Avenue in Brooklyn on Oct. 7, 2009 when two police officers in an unmarked van pulled him over. The officers pulled him from his bike, threw him against a wall and searched his pockets against his will. He was issued a summons for disorderly conduct and one for riding his bike on the sidewalk. Both were dismissed.
"Essentially, I was in an NYPD database for riding my bike," said Khan, who has never been arrested and has no criminal record. "As someone who has covered the NYPD as a journalist, I know that good police work is done in this city without a sprawling database of innocent people’s information."
In July 2010, a state law was enacted prohibiting the NYPD from keeping a computer database of the names and personal information of innocent people who were unjustly stopped, questioned or frisked by police officers and were neither arrested nor issued a summons. Combined, the state law and today’s settlement will prevent the NYPD from maintaining in the database the names and addresses of any person stopped, questioned and/or frisked by police. The NYPD database will continue to maintain details of all other aspects of police stops (including the race of those stopped) so as to allow continued reporting about and monitoring of the stop-and-frisk program.