The Bloomberg administration has agreed under a settlement announced on Wednesday to purge a New York City Police Department database containing personal information on individuals who were stopped by authorities, and also agreed to pay $10,000 to the lead plaintiff in a putative class action.
Under the terms of the settlement, the city will within 90 days delete the names and addresses of all individuals who were stopped, questioned and/or frisked. It will also pay a settlement to the only plaintiff seeking damages, freelance journalist Daryl Khan. The other members of the class sought only injunctive relief.
Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union and lead counsel in the case, said in an interview that hundreds of thousands of names of innocent individuals will be erased from the NYPD database as a result of the settlement.
"The immediate practical importance is that the department was using the database to conduct criminal investigations, which meant that if you got stopped on the street and were in the database, you were a target of an investigation even if you had done absolutely nothing wrong," Dunn said. "This will end that completely."
Lino v. City of New York, 106579/10, focused on two named plaintiffs, Clive Lino and Khan.
Lino, who is black and claims he was stopped at least 13 times by police, alleged he was thrown against a wall in April 2009, frisked and issued a summons for spitting in public and possessing an open container.
Khan, who had written about the NYPD for more than a decade, alleged he was pulled over in Brooklyn in 2009, thrown against a wall, searched and ultimately accused of riding his bicycle on a sidewalk and disorderly conduct.
Although all of the charges against Lino and Khan were dismissed, their names remained in the NYPD database, even after a change in the law forced the city to expunge much of the information in the so-called UF-250 file.
Legislation signed in 2010 by Governor David Paterson barred the NYPD from retaining stop-and-frisk data when the individual questioned was let go without an arrest or summons (NYLJ, July 19, 2010). But the legislation did not require expunging information on cases where the target was arrested or issued a summons, even if the charge was ultimately dismissed, leaving the city with a partial investigatory tool.
On behalf of Lino and Khan and several hundred thousand other citizens, the NYCLU brought a class action arguing that the records should also be expunged.
Acting Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe dismissed the case for lack of standing, but she was reversed by the Appellate Division, First Department (NYLJ, Dec. 21). The appeals court revived the plaintiffs' case, resulting ultimately in the settlement.
"It is a relief to know that my personal information will be cleared from the stop-and-frisk database," Lino said in a statement. "It is humiliating enough to be stopped and frisked for no reason, having your name and address kept in a police database only prolongs the indignity of it."
Khan said in a statement that he has never been arrested, has no criminal record and, as a freelance journalist writing about the NYPD, knows "that good police work is done in this city without a sprawling database of innocent people's information."
Dunn said the fact that the city agreed to expunge the names "signals to me what we thought all along, that the database was not a useful law enforcement tool. I do not believe they would have settled if they thought otherwise."
Celeste Koeleveld, executive assistant corporation counsel for public safety, said the settlement is an "outgrowth" of the 2010 legislation, which the city and NYPD had opposed.
"In 2010, when that legislation was being considered, the police department did certainly say they would want to have the information in a database so it could be searched and used for investigative purposes and they felt that was a legitimate use of the information," Koeleveld said. "Over the objection of the police department and the city, the law was passed any way."
Koeleveld said the law depleted the bulk of the information the NYPD was retaining in the UF-250 database. She said an incomplete databank was of comparatively little use for investigative purposes and the city opted to settle rather than continue the fight.
Assistant corporation counsel Janice Casey Silverberg represented the city. She said the settlement is consistent with the 2010 law, "which made the need for the database moot."
NYPD deputy commissioner Paul Browne said "there was no practical reason to continue this litigation" in light of the legislation.
@|John Caher can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.