Stop, Question And Frisk
Police are called to the scene about a group of males selling drugs on a street corner. When they get to the location, individuals who fit the description based on a 911 call are at the scene and stopped by the police. The police conduct a field investigation, however are unable to effect an arrest due to a lack of probable cause. Because the police were not able to make an arrest, does not mean these males were not selling drugs. It means the police did not have enough proof to make an arrest on this incident.
However, the police record the names, address and physical description of the males as allowed by law and required under NYPD policy.
A few days later there is a shooting and someone is killed in the vicinity of the same location. Police begin conducting an investigation to find the shooter. The police use the Stop Question and Frisk (SQF) database to assist in the investigation and see if anybody who may fit the description of the shooter has been stopped by police or if anybody was recently stopped by police in the vicinity of the incident.
Police conducting the investigation are able to identify people by name that were stopped by the police who responded to the 911 call just a few days earlier. After an extensive investigation the police are able to arrest the shooter with the assistance of the SQF data base.
Unfortunately, that will no longer be the case. Recently Governor Paterson signed a bill into law that would prohibit the NYPD from keeping the names of people who are stopped by police and who the police reasonably suspect are about to commit, are committing or already committed a crime.
Why would the Governor take away such a useful investigative tool from our law enforcement? This database provides police with the tools they need to conduct investigations and keep our city safe by taking dangerous criminals off our streets.
We all know everyone is innocent until proven guilty and everyone has a right to certain privacy and due process. But how does recording the names of people stopped by the police and suspected of committing crimes become violating someone’s civil rights?
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly recently met with the Governor and provided him with numerous detailed incidents when the SQF data base assisted the police in solving violent crimes, but he signed the bill anyway. This is the same person who when he was a state senator looked to introduce a bill where police officers would have to shoot a suspect in the arms or legs. Talk about being out of touch with reality.
During a criminal investigation as much information on a suspect including their name, is key to a quick apprehension. Prime example of how important it is to have a suspect identified as soon as possible is Faisal Shahzad the Times Square Bomber. Although the investigation was rather quick; if it had taken just a little while longer to identify this terrorist by name he would have been overseas probably to never be seen again. So by not allowing police access to names in the database of those stopped is only going to hinder serious criminal investigations.
The Criminal Procedural Law will still give the police the right to SQF suspects under the law. However, by removing the names of those stopped in the database, it will delay in identifying possible suspects and allow suspects to never be apprehended or delay the investigation just long enough so that the suspect can evade police apprehension. Those who will suffer the most are those who live in high crime areas.
When used correctly, stop and frisk assists our police in keeping our communities safe and benefits law abiding citizens. Unfortunately, the Governor didn’t think so.