There's a lot of stop and frisk talk in the news these days because the state legislature has sent a bill to Governor Paterson that would require the NYPD to stop maintaining a database of every individual whom cops stop and frisk, even the ones they let go. (Which is most of them.) Today the Daily News ran an editorial by NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, who insists the database of these stops "has become an important crimefighting tool," and offered up a compromise of sorts:
The database has been instrumental in solving violent crimes—including a recent spate of brutal bias attacks—by identifying suspects who had been previously stopped but neither arrested nor given a summons as a result of the stops... Limiting our ability now to solve crime makes no sense. The NYPD database should be preserved as an investigative tool. One year is a sensible time frame, one in which new leads are most likely to be developed. After that, those names would be erased from the database.
It's a reasonable concession by the Police Department, which currently holds such information indefinitely. It also preserves one of the NYPD's important crimefighting tools.
But civil liberties groups and other critics insist the database is unconstitutional. When the NYPD beat its own record for stop and frisks in 2009, the NYCLU's Donna Lieberman said, "In just three months, the NYPD stopped enough totally innocent New Yorkers [171,094!] to fill the new Yankee Stadium three times over. These New Yorkers’ personal information is now stored in an NYPD database...The NYPD is, in effect, building a massive database of black and brown New Yorkers."
Tomorrow, at the invitation of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, all five candidates for Attorney General will meet with Paterson and urge him to sign the law requiring the NYPD to purge the database. "The NYPD currently holds information in an electronic database on approximately 1 million innocent New Yorkers who were stopped and frisked but not arrested or ticketed," says de Blasio. But Mayor Bloomberg is calling on Paterson to veto the bill, and told reporters today: "There's also a high correlation between the perpetrators of crimes and poverty... So if you find, if you can identify a group that's poor, unfortunately we know too well that they are both going to be disproportionately perpetrators and victims of crime, and we've got to make sure we do things to stop that." But how does Bloomberg identify these "poor people"? Are they the wretched ones with only one yacht?