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The New York Police Department is facing a lawsuit over its internal computer database of names collected from a stop and frisk program.
The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a class action lawsuit arguing that the computer database is an unconstitutional cyber-warehouse of millions of names (and addresses) of New Yorkers, most of them minorities who were stopped and frisked but cleared of criminal charges, the New York Times reports.
According to court papers, the NYCLU says state law requires records relating to a summons or an arrest be sealed unless the person is convicted, or pleads guilty to a crime.
The lawsuit is the latest challenge to the NYPD's stop and frisk policy. The policy was heavily criticized after the police shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed Guinean immigrant, outside of his apartment in the Bronx.
In general, a "stop and frisk" is when a police officer stops a person to question them and, for self-protection only, carries out a limited pat-down search for weapons (a "frisk").
A police officer may stop and frisk a person if the officer has a "reasonable suspicion" that the person is engaged in criminal activity. This is an easier test for a police officer to meet than the "probable cause" that is required to make an arrest.
The NYPD stop and frisk policy has been in place for several years and in 2006 the department spent $12 million to create a centralized database of everyone it had stopped and frisked.
The database is designed to provide quick access to data that can solve crimes and save lives.
As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, of the close to 150,000 people stopped and frisked by police from January through March of this year, 9% were white, 33% were Hispanic and 52% percent were black.