The New York City Police Department can no longer store the names and addresses of people whose cases are dismissed after a police stop, under an agreement that settles a lawsuit over one aspect of the city's controversial stop-and-frisk policy.
The civil rights group that filed the suit announced the settlement Wednesday, saying the NYPD will no longer store the names of people who are stopped, arrested or issued a summons when those cases are dismissed or resolved with a fine for a noncriminal violation. The settlement ends a May 2010 lawsuit brought in state court by the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Read the text of the settlement here
"I think that the NYPD is watched by public officials all over the country," Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, told Al Jazeera. "When policies are terminated in New York, other localities are likely to pay attention."
Celeste Koeleveld, the city's lead lawyer on the case, said the settlement was consistent with a 2010 state law that banned identifying information without a conviction. The law, passed under former New York Gov. David Paterson in 2010, prohibits the department from keeping information on people merely stopped by officers.
"The NYPD had been in full compliance with the relevant legislation since it was passed in 2010,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said in a press release. “Accordingly, there was no practical reason to continue this litigation."
Lieberman said the police department previously used the data to round up what she called the "usual suspects," but that these people were overwhelmingly black or Latino youth.
"It puts a person under a cloud of suspicion to be in the database," she said. "It's a big deal for the NYPD to maintain a database of 'the exonerated' for use in criminal investigations, which is what (New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly) said in 2009 they used the stop-and-frisk database for."
The lawsuit was brought by New York City residents Clive Lino and Daryl Khan, who had been stopped and frisked by police but were cleared of wrongdoing.
Khan, a freelance journalist who covered the NYPD for more than a decade and has no criminal record, according to The Associated Press, was riding his bike on a Brooklyn street on Oct. 7, 2009, when two police officers in an unmarked van pulled him over.
"Essentially, I was in an NYPD database for riding my bike," Khan told the AP. "New York City prizes itself for its freedom; but a free society can't call itself free if it allows its local police department to keep a massive secret database of people who have been shown to have done nothing wrong."
The settlement compels the city to erase the data it has collected within 90 days.
"Though much still needs to be done," Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the NYCLU and lead counsel in the case, said in a statement, "this settlement is an important step toward curbing the impact of abusive stop-and-frisk practices."
Wilson Dizard contributed to this report. With Al Jazeera and wire services