The City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus has sent a letter to Gov. David A. Paterson urging him to sign legislation that would outlaw the NYPD’s practice of retaining the personal information of people who are stopped and frisked but not arrested or summoned.
“Maintaining the personal information of these individuals found to be doing nothing wrong and using it in current and future criminal investigations, violates their privacy and due process rights, and thus their civil liberties.”
Stop and frisk is an already controversial policy whereby the police can pat down anyone on the street suspected of a crime. Critics say that the practice unfairly targets black and Hispanic men, but backers say it has played a major role in reducing crime. During last year’s campaign, Tony Avella promised to eliminate the practice if he was elected mayor. But a firestorm erupted when it was revealed that the NYPD retains records of those whom they stop. Each year, over half-a-million people are stopped, and nearly 90% of found to be innocent of any wrongdoing.
Robert Jackson, the co-chair of the Black, Latino, and Asian caucus noted that under the current policy, if he were stopped-and-frisked and released, he would immediately become a suspect of another crime simply because the police had his information.
“The civil liberties of the people of our great state are number one,” he said. “That is what it is about.”
The stop-and-frisk policy began under the Giuliani administration as part of their “broken windows” theory of policing, but has gained added steam under the Bloomberg administration. Bloomberg officials have been lobbying hard for Paterson to veto the bill, and NYPD commisioner Ray Kelly has personally met with the governor on the matter.
“The information in the database has been useful in solving crimes,” said Bloomberg spokesman Jason Post. “Why would you take away something that is working?”
Albany sources say the governor is likely to sign the legislation. He has until next Friday to veto the bill or it becomes law.
Jackson said that if the bill was vetoed, it would harbor a ill dawn in the nation.
“Let’s then go to a Big Brother state, where everyone is fingerprinted, where everyone has a microchip inserted in their arm, and put up video cameras everywhere that record you even when you are in the bathroom making number 2, or making love to someone,” he said. “Unacceptable. Not in America.”