NY Governor David A. Paterson Signs “Stop and Frisk” Bill into Law

By New York State Office of the Governor – Press Release

Governor David A. Paterson today signed into law A.11177-A/S.7945-A, or the “Stop and Frisk” legislation, which prohibits the retention, in an electronic database, the personal information of individuals who are stopped, questioned and frisked by police, but are not charged with a crime or violation. The “stop, question and frisk” technique is used when a police officer reasonably suspects that an individual has committed or is about to commit a misdemeanor or felony. While this law does not prohibit the use of that technique, it ends the practice of storing the personal information that is collected in the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) database. The bill applies only to stops in New York City.

“In a democracy there are times when safety and liberty find themselves in conflict. From the Alien and Sedition Acts to the Japanese internment camps during WWII to the Patriot Act, we have experienced moments where liberty took a back seat. And each time, hindsight made our errors clear,” Governor Paterson said. “Today, we have an opportunity to set the scales of safety and liberty in balance before we lose something we can’t get back. We will continue to work together-citizens, civic leaders, and law enforcement officers-to make New York the safest and most free city in America.”

Currently, the NYPD retains personal information to be used, if applicable, in further investigations. Under this new law, personally identifiable information – such as names, addresses and social security numbers – will be prohibited from being entered into an electronic database for those individuals who have been stopped and questioned, frisked, or both, and released without any further legal action. This bill will not prevent police from entering generic information such as the gender or race of a suspect, or the location of a stop. Additionally, the bill does not prevent the use of the stop-and-frisk technique, which is legal and constitutional, where the officer reasonably suspects that the person stopped has committed or is about to commit a felony or a misdemeanor as defined in the penal law.

Data compiled by the NYPD indicates that the vast majority of those stopped since 2005 have been black or Hispanic. Additional data shows that in 2008, 88 percent of the individuals stopped were released without further action. It is not unreasonable that these individuals could be targeted in future investigations even though no evidence of wrongdoing was found during the initial stop that warranted further legal action.

“There is a principle – which is compatible with the presumption of innocence, and is deeply ingrained in our sense of justice – that individuals wrongly accused of a crime should suffer neither stigma nor adverse consequences by virtue of an arrest or criminal accusation not resulting in conviction,” Governor Paterson continued.

This principle is reflected in a provision of the Criminal Procedure Law that was adopted by the State Legislature in 1976, and is currently set forth as Section 160.50 of the Criminal Procedure Law. That provision calls for the sealing of the criminal records of individuals accused of a crime in circumstances where the criminal charges are dismissed or the criminal proceeding is otherwise terminated in favor of the accused. The law signed by Governor Paterson today is entirely consistent with the principles of fairness and justice that inform Criminal Procedure Law §160.50.

“Those accused of a crime are permitted to have their records sealed upon the dismissal of the charges. Therefore, simple justice as well as common sense suggest that those questioned by police and not even accused of a crime should not be subjected to perpetual suspicion,” Governor Paterson concluded.

The following statements were provided in support of the Governor signing A.11177-A/S.7945-A into law:

Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson said: “Being smart on crime is what keeps our streets safe. This bill protects the privacy and liberty of innocent New Yorkers while giving cops the tools they need to help their investigations, not hinder them. This is commendable work done by Governor Paterson, Senator Adams and Assemblyman Jeffries and I am proud we could work together with law enforcement officials to protect the rights of everyday New Yorkers.”

Senator Eric Adams said: “The NYPD has maintained a database of people who have been stopped, questioned, and frisked, even if those persons are innocent of any wrongdoing. This is an unconstitutional, un-American invasion of privacy. People of color are especially victimized: 80-90% of those stopped are black or Hispanic. The police must cease compiling a database of those not even arrested or given a summons after being stopped, questioned, and frisked. The police should purge their current database of the names of innocents. My bill does not prohibit stop and frisk, or the collecting of information concerning where stop and frisk occurs, or generic information about those stopped (race, sex, physical features). However, it does bar the police from entering into an electronic database any personal information, such as name, social security number, and address, of innocent individuals who are stopped but released without further action. This statutory prohibition is needed to protect the privacy and due process rights of the hundreds of thousands of innocent New Yorkers who are stopped but released each year. I am extremely gratified that my bill to amend criminal procedure law in relation to the temporary questioning of persons in public places (commonly referred to as ‘stop, question, and frisk’) has been passed in the State Senate, and that Assemblyman Jeffries’ bill has been passed in the Assembly. I am proud to look on as Governor Paterson signs the legislation into law.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said: “Criminal proceedings, convictions, jury verdicts-these are the tools we use to determine whether a person is guilty or innocent of a crime. While these stops and searches are often a useful crime-solving tool for law enforcement officials, it is appropriate that we safeguard the right to privacy when a stop does not result in a criminal charge.”

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries said: “This is a tremendous victory for all fair-minded New Yorkers who believe that in a democracy, aggressive law enforcement techniques must be tempered by a healthy respect for civil liberties. There must be a balance between law enforcement activity and the privacy rights of innocent, law-abiding citizens. There is no compelling reason to permit the NYPD to maintain an electronic database with the personal information of more than one million New Yorkers who have done nothing wrong, the majority of whom are black and Latino. The NYPD has repeatedly refused to end this practice. Today I am thankful that Governor Paterson has stepped forward to sign this bill into law and protect the integrity of our democracy here in New York State.”

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