Information gleaned from stop-and-frisk targets must be sealed and cannot be used for subsequent police investigations, an appellate panel has held while finding that individuals whose information was disclosed or utilized have a private right of action against New York City.
In an opinion addressing the ongoing debate over the New York City Police Department's stop-and-frisk policies, a unanimous panel of the Appellate Division, First Department, yesterday reversed a trial court and delivered a victory to civil rights activists who have criticized and legally challenged police procedures.
The panel in an unsigned opinion flatly rejected the city's position and, significantly, held that targets need not await a "readily apparent prospective injury" before seeking relief under a state privacy law.
It "makes little sense for plaintiffs to have to wait until their job applications are in the mail or they are about to appear for job interviews before they have standing to bring a cause of action against the effect of unsealed records," the court said.
The decision reverses a June 2011 holding by Acting Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe (See Profile), reinstates several claims against the city and fortifies two sections of Criminal Procedure Law, §§160.50 and 160.55, which require sealing records in cases terminated in favor of the arrestee or where the individual is convicted of a noncriminal offense (NYLJ, July 7, 2011).
Lino v. City of New York , 106579/10, centers on two named plaintiffs, Clive Lino and Daryl Khan, who were arrested and issued subsequently dismissed summonses under a stop-and-frisk encounter.
Lino, a 29-year-old Harlem resident who works at a facility for students in crisis, was issued two summonses in 2009 after he was stopped by officers in the Bronx. Khan, a 35-year-old freelance journalist from Brooklyn, was also issued two summonses in an unrelated matter. In both cases, the summonses were dismissed.
Records show that the NYPD requires officers to complete a form, which includes the name and address of the individual stopped and frisked. That information is then entered into a central data base where it is stored for "investigators to utilize in subsequent location and apprehension of criminal suspects" and "remains there indefinitely, for use in future investigations," the court said, quoting from a 2009 letter from Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to Councilman Peter Vallone Jr.
Legislation signed by Governor David Paterson in 2010 bars the NYPD from retaining stop-and-frisk information when the individual questioned is let go without an arrest or summons (NYLJ, July 19, 2010). Yesterday's decision affords new protections, as well as remedies, to those who are charged or issued a summons if the matter is dismissed.
The First Department said the plaintiffs in a suit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union "correctly assert that they have suffered an injury in fact for two reasons: (1) their records remain unsealed, which puts them at imminent risk that their records will be disclosed, and (2) the NYPD is improperly disclosing plaintiffs' records in the 'stop and frisk' database, which may lead to plaintiffs being targeted in future investigations."