New York governor signs law banning 'stop and frisk' database

[JURIST] New York Governor David Paterson (D) [official website] signed a bill [press release] Friday prohibiting the retention of personal information of individuals detained New York City police during a "stop and frisk" but ultimately not charged with a crime. The law [A 11177A materials] was approved by the New York Assembly [official website] last month and will end the practice of police obtaining and keeping an electronic record of all individuals who are temporarily detained based on a police officer's reasonable suspicion. Opponents of the law, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg [official website], argue that the current database has been an important crime fighting tool [AFP report] for police officers in New York City, crediting the database with a significant decrease in crime. Paterson stated that the law was consistent with the state's Criminal Procedure Laws [§ 160.50 text] and with societal principles of justice, stating:

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. ... 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.
In 2009, New York City police officers obtained information from more than 500,000 individuals [AP report], primarily minorities, as a result "stop and frisk" detentions.

"Stop and frisk" detentions are considered an exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment [text], based on an officer's reasonable suspicion and the necessity to protect the safety of police officers. Courts continue developing the case law surrounding the Fourth Amendment, balancing privacy issues against social necessity. In June, the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in City of Ontario v. Quon [Cornell LII backgrounder] that an employer's search of private text messages on a work-issued device does not violate the Fourth Amendment if the search is motivated by a legitimate work-related purpose and is not excessive in scope. In February, a US court of appeals ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that strip searching all incoming inmates does not violate the Fourth Amendment because it is necessary in order to prevent illegal substances from entering prisons. The Ohio Supreme Court [official website] ruled in December that a warrantless search of the contents of a suspect's cell phone violates the Fourth Amendment [JURIST report] prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure, unless the search is necessary to protect the officers' safety or there are other exigent circumstances

 

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