Man Searched 21 Times in Subway Sues City

A native New Yorker of South Asian descent claims police have stopped and searched him 21 times in the subway because of his race.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday by the New York Civil Liberties Union, Jangir Sultan, 32, says he is of Kashmiri descent and has dark eyes and brown skin and looks Middle Eastern. The occupational therapist says he was born in Brooklyn and has lived in New York nearly his entire life.
Sultan says he was stopped at various subway stations around the city after the New York Police Department implemented a search program in response to bombings in London in 2005.
At first, he said, he regarded the searches as a necessary part of life to prevent another terrorist attack. But then he started asking around, and realized none of his friends were being stopped with the same frequency, according to the lawsuit against the city and the NYPD filed in Brooklyn's federal court.
Police conduct subway stops at random times in stations around the city, setting up a table and a sign with the NYPD crest where bags are searched. Straphangers are told consistently by transit workers that all bags are subject to search by police. Paul Browne, the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner for Public Information, said the checks are conducted without regard to ethnicity or race.
The city law department said two federal courts have already determined the subway bag searches are constitutional because they properly balance subway security and civil liberties.
“It is an important anti-terror program that enhances the safety of millions of New Yorkers,” the law department said in a statement. “The NYPD has made every effort to make the program as minimally intrusive as possible.”
But Sultan says he has been stopped wearing scrubs, gym clothing and business attire, with several different bags, and has been singled out at different stations around the city. The only plausible reason he continues to be stopped is because of his race, according to the suit.
“Mr. Sultan began looking at himself in the mirror in the mornings before he left for work, wondering what about him provoked the officers to search him so frequently. He tried carrying a different type of bag, but the stops continued,” the lawsuit says.
After about the 13th time he was stopped, Sultan started filing complaints with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, documenting his version of the interactions with police.
When the stops continued, he wrote to the Mayor's Office, to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and to senators, representatives and City Council members to no avail, the lawsuit said.
The NYCLU said in the lawsuit that the subway checkpoint program is flawed because the NYPD provided little training to officers other than a brief directive explaining how to operate the checkpoints.
The suit seeks an undetermined amount of money as well as additional training, supervision, and monitoring of the subway search program so Sultan will not be targeted again.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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