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NYCLU Calls NYPD Search-Warrant Proposal Inadequate And Asks Department To Take Further Actions To Remedy Search Warrant Problem

In a letter sent this morning to NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, the NYCLU called on the Police Department to take significant additional steps beyond the data collection it announced yesterday. “While we think collection of this information is a useful first step,” the NYCLU letter said, “we believe that the Department needs to take further action to address the troubling issues raised by the police actions that led to the death of Alberta Spruill on May 16.”

First, the Department’s announced system fails to collect information about the use of “no knock” warrants and “confidential informants,” both of which played a prominent role in the operation that led to the death of Ms. Spruill. As the letter explains, “Because ‘no knock’ warrants may be used only in unusual circumstances and because they pose a greater threat of trauma to the occupants of a home or apartment, we believe it important for the Department to track the use of these warrants. And because reliance on ‘confidential informants’ introduces a significant possibility that warrants will be based on information of questionable reliability, it is particularly important that the Department closely monitor its use of such informants.”

In addition the Department proposal fails to spell out how the NYPD intends to use the information it collects to monitor and improve its search-warrant practices. “The collection of information alone will do little to remedy problems in the Department’s search-warrant activity,” states the NYCLU’s letter.

Finally, the Department’s announcement is silent on any review of specific tactics being employed in the execution of search warrants, including the use of “flash grenades” like the one used in the raid of Ms. Spruill’s apartment. It is particularly troubling to the NYCLU that Commissioner Kelly has directed resumption of use of these potentially lethal devices without any public disclosure about the results of the investigation he publicly stated would take place into their use.

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