05/31/2008

Group wins access to NYPD database

By Tom Hays
The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Civil rights advocates have won access to the New York Police Department's internal, electronic database to search for any racial bias among hundreds of thousands of pedestrian street-stop cases.

The information could "give New Yorkers a better understanding of the extent to which the NYPD targets communities of color and particularly African-American males for aggressive stops, even though they're doing nothing wrong," New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman said Friday.

The nation's largest police department had argued that releasing the records -- which give locations and other details of each stop since 2006 -- would pose a risk to police officers because they contain their names and other personal information.

In her decision filed Thursday, Manhattan Judge Marilyn Diamond said the department could remedy that problem by blacking out the information. She also noted that the department had previously given the database to the RAND Corp. and a research institute at the University of Michigan for studies.

"The NYPD has not offered any reason why the petitioner should be denied access to the same database which it has already shared with other outside organizations," Diamond wrote.

She ruled it should be turned over to the NYCLU within 60 days.

"We are disappointed in the judge's view of the law enforcement privileges asserted regarding this sensitive database," a city lawyer, Jesse Levine, said Friday in a statement. "We are reviewing the decision to determine our next legal steps."

Police officials have long denied allegations of racial profiling.

The stop-and-frisk tactics came under scrutiny after the NYPD disclosed last year that it made more than 500,000 stops in 2006 alone. Slightly more than 50 percent of the people stopped were black, while about a fourth of the city's residents are black.

Earlier this year, police reported it had stopped about 145,000 people for searches during the first quarter of this year -- the most of any quarter since the numbers were first made public in 2002.

 

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