A Policy Not Worth the Paper Its Written On: Why Further Legislation is Needed to Stop the NYPD’s Continued Use of Paper Records for its Stop and Frisk Database

Daniel Levin, Albany Government Law Review Member

Introduction

“[K]eeping records on innocent people is not the American way,” said New York State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, as he urged Governor David Paterson to sign into law a bill prohibiting the use of an electronic database containing the identities of innocent stop and frisk individuals.[1] On July 16, 2010, Governor Paterson signed that bill into law (S.7945-A/A.11177-A), which amends section 140.50 of the Criminal Procedure Law to prohibit the electronic recording of certain identifying information of a person subjected to temporary questioning or search in a public place.[2] Opponents of the legislation argue that the law makes New Yorkers less safe by letting criminals go free.[3] At the same time, proponents of the legislation argue that it safeguards greater individual freedom and liberty from the government while maintaining the police’s ability to use the same crime-fighting techniques they have deemed effective in policing the streets.[4] While the legislation is certainly a step in the right direction, it does not go far enough in safeguarding individual liberty as the New York City Police Department (hereinafter “NYPD”) has already taken steps to replace their computerized stop and frisk database with a more primitive paper form.[5]

I. Database Origin

On September 6, 2001, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law Bill Number 55 of 2001, which required the NYPD to submit quarterly reports to the City Council containing information about the NYPD’s stop and frisk policies.  In the quarterly reports, the NYPD was required to submit the number of stop, question, or frisks conducted, the breakdown of these stops by race and gender, the number of arrests and summonses resulting from stops, the race and gender of each person arrested or given a summons resulting from a stop, and a categorical reason for each stop, question, or frisk.[6] The law became effective in 2002.[7]

The purpose of the law was to give the City Council greater oversight over the NYPD so that it could address public concerns about policing, specifically whether the NYPD engaged in racial profiling.[8] The Council aimed to determine the effectiveness of the NYPD’s stop and frisks as well as analyze whether there were racial disparities for individuals stopped and frisked, or if race or gender played a factor in an individual being stopped by the police.[9] In order to comply with this directive, the NYPD created a stop-and-frisk electronic database containing the identity of each person stopped, frisked, or questioned by the police.[10]

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Paterson’s Proposed Soda Tax: Not the Cure for Obesity

Danielle Erickson, Government Law Review Member

          We live in an age where 60.5% of American adults are currently overweight, 23.9% are obese, and 3% are extremely obese.[1] Beyond that, one in every six school-age children is not just overweight, but obese![2]  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contend that the prevalence for obesity in school-age children has tripled since the 1970s.[3]  This is especially troubling when taking into account that early obesity leads to earlier onsets of obesity associated health problems such as: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, pregnancy complications, arthritis, certain cancers, and depression.[4]  It has been estimated that between 300,000 and 400,000 deaths a year can be attributed to poor eating habits and obesity.[5]  This number is just shy of smoking related deaths and far surpasses the number of deaths caused by alcohol, car accidents, guns, or sexual disease.[6]  All in all obesity costs Americans an average of 117 billion dollars in obesity related medical problems as well as lost wages from illness and premature death.[7]

          In December 2008, New York Governor David Paterson proposed an 18% tax on soda and other sugary drinks containing less than seventy percent juice as part of what is now loving referred to as an “obesity tax”. [8]  Patterson declared childhood obesity a public health epidemic and compared it to smoking; citing statistics as staggering as one in four New Yorker’s under the age of eighteen is obese with the rate being closer to one in three in high poverty areas. [9]   The soda tax was aimed at reducing the consumption of soft drinks, which have been found to be one of the key factors in childhood obesity.[10]   Governor Paterson cites Harvard research which indicates that, “for each additional 12-ounce soft drink consumed per day increases the risk of a child becoming obese by 60 percent”, with the correlation for adults being equivalent.[11]  The Governor estimated that the tax would raise 404 million dollars, which would be used to fund public health programs but perhaps more importantly would reduce soda consumption by 5%.[12]

           However, by February 2009 Governor Paterson realized that his proposal for an 18% tax on soda would not pass in the legislature.[13]  As a result Paterson proposed a revised soda tax in January 2010, in which he seeks to gain approval for a penny per ounce tax on sugary drinks.[14]  The added tax would be less apparent to consumers as it would be figured into the retail price of the soda instead of added on at checkout, still it is estimated that it could reduce soda consumption by 10 to 15%, but would raise an estimated one billion dollars in revenue solely allocated to the heath care and education budget.[15]

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