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NYPD Can No Longer Detain People To Check On Arrest Warrants

New York City police officers no longer can detain people to determine if there is a warrant for their arrest, if they don’t believe a crime has happened or is imminent, under a settlement filed in federal court on Friday. The police often stop people because officers believe they have illegal weapons, or have committed another crime. Now, during these stops, officers will be permitted to ask only questions related to the stop itself, under the new settlement. If the reason for the stop is resolved, the person will be free to go, reports the New York Times. In the past, even if officers did not find evidence of a crime, they would often hold people longer to conduct warrant checks using digital databases that rely on surveillance systems, according to a lawsuit brought by the Legal Aid Society, Handley Farah & Anderson and Stroock & Stroock & Lavan on behalf of seven people who were the subjects of these warrant checks. The case challenged practices reminiscent of policing in the 2000s, when stop-and-frisk tactics often targeted people of color as officers sought guns and drugs. Those practices were later deemed unconstitutional.

Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer, has lauded stop-and-frisk in his crusade against crime. While he has acknowledged the department abused residents in the past, he said the practice is still a necessary tool for officers on the streets. Friday’s settlement, in which the city admitted no liability, requires it to pay about $454,000 in damages. All officers must also be trained in the new policy changes by the end of January. The city’s Law Department said “the settlement of this 2019 case was in the best interest of all parties.” Molly Griffard, a staff attorney with the Cop Accountability Project at the Legal Aid Society, said that detaining people to look for outstanding warrants turned “each of these stops into an unrelated fishing expedition.” The settlement “holds the N.Y.P.D. accountable for infringing on the rights of New Yorkers,” Griffard said.

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