Gov. David Paterson signed a bill this morning that bans authorities from compiling the names and addresses of the hundreds of thousands of innocent people who are detained by police each year in stop-and-frisks but are not arrested.
The practice of holding on to the names and addresses is an “unfair and unsupportable infringement on the civil rights of law abiding new Yorkers,” Paterson said before signing the bill into law.
It “makes a mockery of constitution and it stops now,” Paterson said.
Critics say information from such stops, mainly of blacks and Latinos who are innocent, leads to future police suspicion and surveillance. But the mayor defended the practice this morning.
"We do use it the right way," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday, speaking on his weekly radio show.
The legislation, sponsored by former NYPD captain Sen. Eric Adams and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, both Brooklyn Democrats, will not eradicate the stop-and-frisk database completely, but it does prevent cops from compiling certain details – the names and addresses – of those stopped.
“There has to reasonable efforts to ensure public safety but that must be tempered by the respect for the privacy rights for law-abiding citizens,” Jeffries said.
More than 500,000 people were frisked last year, but only 12 percent were arrested or given a summons, according to published reports. And the police department's own data indicates that 90 percent of stop-and-frisks are nonwhite. That means the NYPD gets to indefinitely keep personal information on individuals, who statistics show are disproportionately black and Latino youth, who haven't formally been accused of doing anything wrong – a practice civil liberties groups call an invasion of privacy.
Before the bill became law, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly blasted the legislation.
"Albany has robbed us of a great crime-fighting tool, one that saved lives," Kelly said in a statement. "Without it, there will be, inevitably, killers and other criminals who won't be captured as quickly or perhaps ever. They'll be free to threaten our neighborhoods longer than they would have been otherwise."
City Hall argued the legislation would handcuff cops in their crime-fighting endeavors. The Bloomberg administration, along with Kelly, says the database is a crucial tool – one without which some dangerous suspects may proceed uncaught for a longer period of time – or forever.
Kelly also says the stop-and-frisk policy has played a major role in the overall reduction of crime in the city. He said the names in the database are kept indefinitely and are used in future investigations, and pointed to 178 criminal cases, including 17 murders, in which the database helped identify suspects.
Lawmakers of color strongly urged the governor to sign the bill into law. The five candidates for attorney general also pressed Paterson to delete certain parts of the database.