Monday, July 26, 2010

Stop and Frisk Law Eliminates Police Database by Steve Mosco - The Queens Courier

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Governor David A. Paterson signed a new law that effectively eliminates a database of individuals stopped and questioned by the police.

The Stop and Frisk legislation, which prohibits the retention of personal information – such as names, addresses and social security numbers – of individuals who are stopped by police but not charged with a crime, was signed into law on Friday, July 16.

"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," 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."

While the governor has the support of Senators and Assemblymembers, City Councilmember Eric Ulrich, a member of the City Council Public Safety Committee, said that eliminating this electronic database leaves New Yorkers vulnerable to the city’s rising crime rate.

“As categories of crime continue to rise throughout the City, the NYPD needs every available tool at its disposal to keep our streets safe,” said Ulrich. “I am extremely disappointed in the Governor’s decision to eliminate this database, which was instrumental in solving many crimes.”

The new bill does not prevent the use of the stop-and-frisk technique, nor does it prevent police from entering generic information – such as the gender or race of a suspect – however, Paterson believes the new law will help to preserve a presumption of innocence.

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

However, Ulrich believes that with the signing of this bill, the Governor has taken an important tool out of the hands of law enforcement and the people of New York will suffer because of this action.

“With the stroke of his pen, the Governor has effectively taken away an invaluable resource that has undoubtedly helped make New York the safest big city in America,” he said.