A troubling new trend has taken hold in New York City; frisking, searching and scanning takes place on a daily basis by the New York Police Department.

Reports made by the New York Civil Liberties Union concluded that 684,330 people in the city were searched by police officers in 2011. The NYCLU says this is 603 percent increase since the troubled stop-and frisk program started in 2002 under the Bloomberg Administration.

The civil liberties union points out that nine out of 10 of the searches result in innocent people being hassled by the police and do not result in a ticket or summons. A report conducted by the NYCLU determined that those frisked, 87 percent were black or Latino.

“Last year alone, the NYPD stopped enough totally innocent New Yorkers to fill Madison Square Garden more than 30 times over,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “It is not a crime to walk down the street in New York City, yet every day innocent black and brown New Yorkers are turned into suspects for doing just that. It is a stunning abuse of power that undermines trust between police and the community.”

The NYCLU contends, that under Mayor Bloomberg, the NYPD targets specific minorities groups for random searches daily.

“These numbers make clear that illegal stops-and-frisks have become an epidemic in New York City,” according to Darius Charney, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is currently litigating Floyd v. City of New York, a federal class action lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices. “And the only antidote is meaningful, independent oversight of the Department.”

“I have been stopped, questioned and frisked four times,” said Joseph Midgley, with a picture the Homeless civil rights leader. “Each time I was standing in a public place, committing no crime.  Each time, I was asked for an ID, my pockets were searched and I was asked if I had anything illegal on me, which I did not. Each time, the police found nothing illegal, and I was not charged, nor given a ticket. Now that I am homeless, the police harassment has only gotten worse.”

According to the NYCLU’s analysis of NYPD stop-and-frisk statistics, four out of the five precincts with the highest frisks are located in predominantly black or Latino communities. The white or Asian communities have a much lower stop and frisk incident rate.

The dramatic increase in officer frisking has met with considerable anger within New York City. “These new numbers about the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy confirm that the program has not met its objectives and sparks distrust of law enforcement in communities of color,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer. “If the goal is to get guns off the street, the program’s failure to find guns in 99.9 percent of all cases speaks for itself. If the goal is to make arrests, the lack of an arrest in 94 percent of all cases is equally troubling. Last year nearly 700,000 stops were conducted, the most ever, and 85 percent of those were black or Latino (race) New Yorkers. It’s time for us to work with communities to get guns off the street, not against them. The NYPD can’t hope to build bridges if it keeps burning them.”

While the NYPD’s new frisking policy may be legal, it has met with strong disapproval from the city council.

“It has become an unacceptable policing policy,” said New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams. “It interferes with the good work displayed by many of the department’s officers and puts innocent New Yorkers at risk.”

Mobile scanning on the horizon

Just as controversial as the NYPD’s random frisking policy is the new portable device that is mounted on police vehicles that can detect any weapons or explosive devices anyone may be carrying as they walk down the sidewalk.

Experts describe the high-tech gadget will use infrared rays to scan a metal form, similar to radiation, and alert law enforcement to anyone carrying a concealed weapon.

“If something is obstructing the flow of that radiation — for example, a weapon — the device will highlight that object,” NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said at the Police Foundation’s State of the NYPD breakfast, according to the New York Times. “This technology has shown a great deal of promise as a way of detecting weapons without a physical search.”

The move to develop high-tech gadgetry is a sign of the times. Large metropolitan cities throughout the U.S. are arming their police departments with more military-like weaponry, in an effort to fight all forms of terrorism or citizen uprisings.

The NYPD spokesperson, Paul Browne, said the portable scanner, currently under development with the Pentagon, will have the ability to allow officers 80 feet away in their squad car see any potential hidden weapons.

However, the new technology isn’t without its critics. Many legal experts say there is a real privacy issued being violated as the portable scanners show the outline of a person’s body, similar to the airport scanners already operational.

Also, when citizens travel to the airport and pass through security, they presumably give up their right to privacy to clear a security checkpoint. The same would not be the case for those casually walking down the sidewalk in NYC to grab some food or get some exercise.

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© Copyright 2012 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

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