NYCLU Sues NYPD to Force Public Release of Stop-and-Frisk Database

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
November 13, 2007 12:00 am

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The New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court challenging the NYPD’s refusal to disclose an electronic database detailing police stops of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, most of whom were black and Latino.

In July, the NYCLU served the NYPD with a formal legal request to turnover the database under the state’s Freedom of Information Law. The department rejected the request at the end of August and denied the NYCLU’s administrative appeal on October 15.

The NYCLU requested the information to allow for an independent analysis of the department’s stop-and-frisk practices, which have been the subject of enormous controversy since the 1999 shooting death of Amadou Diallo. The controversy was rekindled last February when the department, under pressure from the NYCLU, released printed reports revealing that more than half a million New Yorkers were stopped in 2006 alone.

“The NYPD cannot conceal its stop-and-frisk practices from the public,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. “New Yorkers have a right to know if the police are stopping people on racially biased grounds.”

According to the printed reports released in February, in 2006 the NYPD completed stop-and-frisk maneuvers on 508,540 individuals. Of that number, 458,104 people – about 90 percent of all people stopped – were engaged in no unlawful activity whatsoever, as they were neither given a summons nor arrested. Nearly 86 percent of all persons stopped were black or Hispanic.

While the printed reports released by the department provide important information, any sophisticated analysis of the role of race in police stops requires access to the database. Recognizing this, the NYPD, while refusing to provide the database to the NYCLU or the City Council, provided it to the RAND Corporation, which it has retained to study the stop-and-frisk practices.

“The secrecy surrounding the NYPD must stop,” said Christopher Dunn, NYCLU associate legal director and lead counsel on the case. “If the police department will not voluntarily release the information needed to independently examine its stop-and-frisk practices, we are confident that the courts will require it do so.”

Also serving as co-counsel on the case are Rebecca Bers, Meredith Laitner and Samantha Marks, students from New York University Law School’s Civil Rights Clinic, and Professor Claudia Angelos, who teaches in the clinic.

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