A recent ad placed in the New York Post by the Captains Endowment Association and the Lieutenants Benevolent Association stated the following,
“The New York City Council wants to pass a law that bans police officers from identifying a person by age, gender, color or disability. If a police officer transmits descriptions beyond clothing color they can be sued for racial profiling. That’s dangerous for the public and police officers.”
On its face, this sounds absurd. Anyone with an ounce of common sense would argue, how can police officers possibly find suspects when they are barred from using race, color or gender when trying to find a suspect?
Upon further investigation, however, it appears the ad put out by the NYPD associations are not exactly accurate. In fact, the language of the bill that police can use such information when it is in reference to a crime. The bill actually states the following,
“§ 14-151 [Racial or Ethnic]Bias-based Profiling Prohibited. a. Definitions. As used in this section, the following terms have the following meanings:
1. “[Racial or ethnic] Bias-based profiling” means an act of a member of the force of the police
department or other law enforcement officer that relies on actual or perceived race, [ethnicity, religion or] national origin, color, creed, age, alienage or citizenship status, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or housing status as the determinative factor in initiating law enforcement action against an individual, rather than an individual’s behavior or other information or circumstances that links a person or persons [of a particular race, ethnicity, religion national origin] to suspected unlawful activity.”
The key sentence in the bill is “rather than an individual’s behavior or other information or circumstances that link a person or persons [of a particular race, ethnicity, religion, national origin] to suspected unlawful activity.”
What the bill is, in fact saying, is that police officers cannot use race, sex, gender, religion, etc. unless there is a specific crime that links such an individual. In other words, if an officer responds to a theft, and they get a description of the suspect, all of these factors can still be used and broadcasted in an attempt to locate, just as we do today. According to the language, officers can still use the same methods as always to track a suspect. However, the language is a bit ambiguous, and could have been written far more clearly and concisely.
Now that this has been cleared up, here comes the next question. Why? What is the goal this bill is trying to achieve? In the legislation, the reasoning behind this bill is a result of what many claim is discrimination that has become prevalent from New York’s “Stop and Frisk” policy.
The legislation states:
“The City Council expresses deep concern about the impact of NYPD practices on various communities in New York City. In particular, the Council expresses concern about the NYPD’s growing reliance on stop and- frisk tactics and the impact of this practice on communities of color.”
“Stop and Frisk” has been at the center of debate for some time. “Stop and Frisk” was a constitutionally questionable tactic that left room for abuse and over dependence. However, to push new legislation based on this issue is a moot point.
“Stop and Frisk” has already been found to be unconstitutional. In January 2013, Federal Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled this practice to be in violation of the 4th amendment, and ordered the police to refrain from such practice. Based on this recent turn of events, why is this bill still being pushed? It is already illegal for police to profile and this bill only further gums up the works with more legal language to be twisted.
The NYPD associations are correct in one regard; this will only open up loopholes for sue-happy attorneys to target the City of New York and NYPD for dubious claims of profiling, which in turn deludes legitimate cases of discrimination when they arise.
Profiling without probable cause is already illegal and is broad sweeping to protect everyone. Introducing a bill that does nothing more than name specifics to certain “protected” groups only further complicate what is a pretty straightforward law. This is like introducing a bill that defines it illegal to kill women, children, men, adults, teenagers, etc. What is the point? Murder is all encompassing and the need to name specifics is just silly.
It is important to not let political correctness become the basis for policy and legislation which should be rooted in sound logic and reason. Public trust and safety are at stake. We need logical and sound legislation, not feel-good laws that muddy legal waters.
Nick is a former Arizona police officer and deputy. He is a Kaplan University Counter Terrorism and Homeland Security major, recently graduating with highest honors. Nick is a member of The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, the Golden Key International Honor Society, Alpha Betta Kappa Honor Society, and Alpha Phi Sigma Criminal Justice Honor Society. He has appeared as an expert commentator on Fox News Radio, and has been published in academic journals as well as Police One.
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