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NYCLU Challenges Police Fingerprinting During the RNC

The New York Civil Liberties Union today charged the NYPD with unlawfully taking the fingerprints of hundreds of people charged with minor offenses during the Republican National Convention. In a letter to NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, the NYCLU expressed concern that unlawfully obtained fingerprints of political activists and innocent bystanders had been forwarded to the FBI for inclusion in federal databases. Today’s letter, from the NYCLU calls upon the Police Department to destroy all unlawfully obtained fingerprints.

NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said, “The entry of fingerprints in government databases is a fundamental invasion of privacy that can have lifelong consequences. The NYPD should not be using minor offenses as an excuse to fingerprint political activists.”

Under New York law, the police may take the fingerprints of those charged with violations – such as disorderly conduct – only if (1) the police are unable to ascertain the person’s identity, (2) the police reasonably suspect that the identification given by the person is not accurate, or (3) the police reasonably suspect the person is being sought by law enforcement for the commission of some other offense.

According to published reports, the NYPD arrested nearly 1,500 people during the Convention for minor offenses known as “violations.” During the Convention, however, numerous reports indicate that the NYPD systematically fingerprinted everyone, regardless of whether the person had valid identification and without any reason to believe the person might have been sought by law enforcement.

Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn added, “Not only is it wrong to routinely fingerprint political activists charged with minor offenses, it is not permitted by New York law. If the NYPD does not agree to destroy these fingerprints, we will take legal action.”

Click here for the letter to the NYPD.

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