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NYCLU Sues the NYPD for Withholding Full Database of Vehicle Stops  

NEW YORK CITY – The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit today against the NYPD, following its refusal to comply with a Freedom of Information Law request seeking the complete disaggregated, incident-level data related to the NYPD’s vehicle stops in 2022.

Following a City Council law passed in 2021, the NYPD reported summary data on vehicle stops during calendar year 2022, revealing the magnitude and racial disparities of traffic enforcement. NYPD officers conducted nearly 675,000 vehicle stops, which, when including passengers, totals to roughly one million people who were stopped in vehicles by the NYPD last year. The total vehicle stops matches the number of pedestrian stops conducted at the height of the stop-and-frisk program in 2011. 90 percent of those who were searched or arrested during the NYPD’s vehicle stops are Black and Latinx.

However, the summary reports hide incident-level, disaggregated data, which the NYPD has been reporting publicly on pedestrian stops for over a decade. NYPD’s vehicle stop reporting as it stands includes a summary of key information but much less information than is included in the Department’s pedestrian stop reports, which has 83 variables for each stop.

“As evident in the recent police killings of Tyre Nichols, Sandra Bland, Daunte Wright, Sean Bell, and Philando Castile, vehicle stops can turn deadly,” said Ify Chikezie, legal fellow at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “It’s about time the NYPD released raw vehicle stop data so that the public can have an informed discussion on the dangers of police traffic stops. At the very least, New Yorkers deserve to know exactly what is going on during traffic stops. And for that reason, we will see the NYPD in court.”

Disclosing the full universe of vehicle stop data would provide the public with a comprehensive picture of the racial and geographic characteristics of these stops. It would also enable the public to cross tabulate information about stops using several variables at once to determine the populations of New Yorkers targeted in these stops and their outcomes. For instance, New Yorkers could then understand whether Black and Latinx young people are disproportionately subjected to stops, or the geographic breakdown of Black drivers stopped by the NYPD.

“In 2012, the NYCLU successfully sued the NYPD to obtain the pedestrian stop-and-frisk database, which we then used to uncover the abuse and racism that permeated the program. More than a decade later, the lack of NYPD transparency has forced us to return to court for the same level of detail on vehicle stops,” said Chris Dunn, legal director at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Data plays a critical role in exposing and challenging abusive and discriminatory policing. Today’s lawsuit is the next step in our ongoing effort to provide the public with complete information about the NYPD’s traffic enforcement regime and how it impacts our communities.”

You can find case materials here.

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