NYCLU Says New NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Database Raises Major Privacy Concerns

February 5, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:  media@aclu.org
 
NEW YORK - The New York Civil Liberties Union today raised major concerns about the revelation that the New York City Police Department is compiling a massive new database of law-abiding New Yorkers, mostly black and Hispanic, who have been stopped by the police.  The NYCLU demanded that the NYPD take immediate steps to protect the privacy rights of persons who are stopped and frisked but not convicted of a crime.
 
"In the coming days we will review in detail the newly-released data on the demographics of the people whom the police stopped and frisked in 2006," said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. "But the revelation that these individuals' names are being improperly collected and retained by the police is an added source of concern. The NYPD's collection and retention of this information represents a violation of the privacy rights of New Yorkers, may be illegal, and - given that the individuals stopped are disproportionately black or Hispanic - raises major concerns about racial profiling. People who have done nothing wrong should not be in a police database."
 
The NYCLU learned of the database from an internal NYPD operations order, dated 2006 (and now available on the NYCLU's website), that mandates that "stop-and-frisk worksheets," which officers fill out after stopping and frisking any individual, be submitted for inclusion in a new database. According to sources with first-hand knowledge of the database, the names of persons stopped are included in the database and can be obtained through a query of the system.
 
Initial reports state that in 2006, the Department completed stop-and-frisk forms on 508,540 individuals. Of that number, only 50,436 were arrested or received summonses, leaving 458,104 people, or 90 percent of all people stopped, found to have engaged in no unlawful activity.  According to the Department, 85.7 percent of all persons stopped were black or Hispanic.
 
New York State Penal Law (Section 160.50) requires that police records of people who are arrested and whose cases are later dismissed must be sealed so as to protect their privacy rights. The massive new stop-and-frisk database circumvents those legal protections by including hundreds of thousands of people who have never been arrested or given a summons. And for those people who were arrested and whose cases were dismissed, unsealed retention of their names in the NYPD database would directly violate this law. 
 
The NYCLU's letter to the NYPD and the NYPD operations order are available online at: www.nyclu.org/nypd_stop_and_frisk_ltr_020507.pdf
 
The NYCLU's palm card, "What To Do If You're Stopped By The Police," is available online at: www.nyclu.org/bust_card.html
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