By Eric Yun
Last Friday, Governor Paterson signed a bill that will reduce the number of people the NYPD can store in its “stop and frisk” database.
The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D- Brooklyn) and Senator Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn), prevents the NYPD from storing the name and address of people stopped and questioned by the police, but not charged with a crime. Previously, anyone who was stopped and questioned by police could have had their name, address, gender and ethnicity stored in the database.
Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly both opposed Governor Paterson's decision. “This was an effective investigative tool we've been forced to surrender for no good reason,” Police Commissioner Kelly said to the Wall Street Journal. “Without [the database], there will be, inevitably, killers and other criminals who won't be captured as quickly, or perhaps ever,” Kelly said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
Critics of the bill say the legislation will ham- per the NYPD's ability to solve crimes. Kelly estimated that over 170 crimes were solved because of the database.
Stu Loeser, spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg, told The New York Times, “We're disappointed that police officers will be denied an important tool they have been using to solve crimes and prevent others.”
Proponents of the bill claim the database infringed on the civil liberties and privacy of innocent civilians.
“In a democracy there are times when safety and liberty find themselves in conflict,” Governor Paterson said in a statement, “From the Alien and Sedition Acts to the interment 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.”
New York City Comptroller John Liu applauded the legislation in a press release. “In our free society, there is simply no justification for the police to keep such a massive database of millions of individuals who haven't done anything wrong. The shame of it is that 90 percent of the innocent people in this database are people of color,” he said.
Senator Joseph Addabbo (D- Howard Beach) voted in favor of the bill. “I supported everybody's rights,” he said, “Our justice system is innocent until proven guilty.”
Addabbo does not foresee an increase in crime because of the bill. He would, however, support its repeal if crime does increase. “If I find it increases crime, I'll be one of the first senators to introduce a bill to repeal it,” he said.
Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) supported the bill. “I felt it was a duplication of process. Police already keep a written form with the information,” he said.
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) released a statement criticizing the bill. “As categories of crime continue to rise throughout the City, the NYPD needs every available tool at its disposal to keep our streets safe,” he said. “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.”
Assembly Members Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park) and Margaret Markey (D- Maspeth) did not immediately respond by press time to a request for comment. Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) declined to comment on the legislation, and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) didn’t respond to a request for comment.