New York ends police database of people they frisked
A new law has put an end to the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) practice of keeping a database of the personal information of everybody they have stopped and frisked, regardless of whether they were ever charged with a crime. However, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the “Stop and Frisk” legislation signed into law by Gov. David Paterson on July 16 does nothing more than remove a valuable crime-fighting tool.
Currently, the NYPD retains personal information in case it is needed in further investigations. While the new law does not prohibit the use of the “stop, question and frisk” technique, it does prohibit the retention, in an electronic database, of the personal information of individuals who are stopped, questioned and frisked by police, but who are not charged with a crime or violation. The bill applies only to stops in New York City. “In a democracy, there are times when safety and liberty find themselves in conflict, [and] we have experienced moments where liberty took a back seat. And each time, hindsight made our errors clear,” Paterson said in a statement. “Today, we have an opportunity to set the scales of safety and liberty in balance before we lose something we can’t get back.”
The new law will not prevent police from entering generic information, such as the gender or race of a suspect, or the location of a stop. It does prevent them from recording personal information, such as names, addresses and social security numbers. Data compiled by the NYPD indicates that the vast majority of those stopped since 2005 have been black or Hispanic, according to Paterson’s office. Additional data shows that in 2008, 88 percent of the individuals stopped were released without further action. It is not unreasonable that those individuals could be targeted in future investigations even though no evidence of wrongdoing was found during the initial stop that warranted further legal action, according to the governor.
In his weekly radio address last week, Bloomberg said the NYPD uses the database properly and effectively. “[New York Police Chief Raymond] Kelly has a list of 200 crimes where we solved the crimes and kept those people from committing more crimes because of the data,” Bloomberg says. “It’s hard to argue there’s any damage done if we have the data, but even if it only helps you solve one crime, and it helps you to solve a lot more, to not have it just doesn’t make any sense.”
The bill panders “to a handful of people who think it’s good politics, but it doesn’t keep us safe,” Bloomerg says. “The basis for all of our community is safe streets,” the mayor says. “[The database is] a real tool, and we do solve some crimes because of it.”