For those that don’t already know, New York governor David Paterson has recently signed a bill limiting stop and frisk data from being stored in a vast computerized database. Thankfully, the governor did the right thing. If he chose to do otherwise, then local police would have had the opportunity to tap into the database at will to to help them conduct their criminal investigations. This permanent database of stop and frisk encounters is one of the first places cops would have stopped to look when investigating actual crimes. Many people may wonder where the issue comes in at, well I'll tell you. The issue arises here because many of the people that have been stopped and frisked by New York's finest, have turned out to be not guilty of anything whatsoever. As a result, civil liberties groups and others have come out of the woodwork to passionately protest. Needless to say, this story has generated quite a bit of noise in the streets. Even the governor himself said 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”. (NY Times Article).
So to break down the debate that has ensued, let's start with the advocates of expanding the database. These individuals earnestly support the policy because they adamantly believe that it will undoubtedly promote better criminal investigations and a safer climate within the city. Supporters suggest that attempts to veto the expansion of this database will only prove to hamstring or handicap police officers in their humble attempt to protect and serve the community (do their jobs). Opponents, on the other hand, contend that expansion of the list is a gross violation of civil rights. They vehemently object to adding names to the database because out of nearly three million street stops since 2004, only 6 percent of those stops led to an arrest, and an equal percentage led to summonses. And to add insult to injury, this policy has been reported to disproportionately affect African Americans and Latinos, which has caused some to think the database, in effect, promotes racial profiling. As a matter of fact, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert referred to the expansion of this database as a “racist policy” that needs to stop— and stop now. Moreover, it has been reported that nearly 490,000 blacks and Latinos were stopped by the police on the streets last year, compared with 53,000 whites according to the analysis of the 2009 raw data by the Center for Constitutional Rights. These numbers are staggering. However, the larger point is that expanding this database is unequivocally wrong in my opinion because many of the people that were locked in this database are innocent individuals that were stopped and frisked, but were at the end of the day, found not guilty of anything.
So, if the boys (and girls) in blue ended up being totally wrong about so many of their hunches about who to stop and frisk, then I don't see one good reason to keep their names in this database. They were found innocent of any, and all wrongdoing. And to top it off, many of the innocent people on this humongous list just so happen to be disproportionately African American or Latino. Hmmm, can anyone say ‘civil rights violation'??? I sincerely hope that New York’s finest realize that stopping and searching people without good reason or proable cause is unconstitutional. Thankfully, the people have come out to vehemently oppose such an egregious violation of an individuals civil liberties.
However, even as we celebrate the progress made in vetoing this bill, we must never forget that, failing to speak up and be heard on any issue of importance can truly lead to unjust policies like the expansion of this computerized database, to slip through the cracks, leaving our civil rights violated. So I admonish you, please do not sit idly by and become a spectator that just watches things go by without having your concerns addressed and acknowldged. Now is not the time to get comfortable, now is the time to reach out to our local officials and keep them accountable for their actions. We owe ourselves that much. What do you think???
PS To voice your concern about this matter and other New York City political issues, feel free to contact Governor David Patterson by visiting his web page: http://www.state.ny.us/governor/contact/index.html. There you will find a variety of ways to contact him and his office.