New York Shuts Down Stop-And-Frisk Database

Posted July 19, 2010 in Criminal Law by Arthur Buono

New York Governor David Paterson signed a law last Friday doing away with a database of persons whom police had stopped for interrogation and released. Critics of the database said police should not keep records of persons who have not been accused of wrongdoing. Police say the database was an effective and fair method of combating crime.

  • Stop-and-frisk a limited form of police encounter
  • Police may briefly challenge a person based on reasonable suspicion
  • Critics claim the database created a stigma or suspicion about the person


Database of 2.5 Million Police Stopped to Question

The move comes while a federal court considers a challenge to a California law requiring police to take tissue samples for DNA identification from persons they arrest. Police claim that having the names and other information on file about people they encounter or arrest can finger perpetrators of open cases or deter criminal activity. Civil libertarians say police should not keep data on persons who are not suspects of any crime or who have been cleared of wrongdoing.

Police may stop and frisk persons they encounter based on a reasonable suspicion the person is involved in criminal activity. Also called a Terry stop, for the Supreme Court case that OK’d the practice, the stop-and-frisk is a limited form of search and seizure that police may make without probable cause or a search or arrest warrant. Critics of the practice say it allows cops to act on a mere hunch. They also complain it allows police to practice illegal racial profiling.

The database developed out of a law that required police to turn over information on police encounters to state lawmakers. The lawmakers wanted to make sure police were not harassing minorities. In a twist, police used the database to cross-check names against crimes. While police may no longer keep the names of the persons they stop, police can still keep other generic information in the database.

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