June 2, 2015

Assembly Passes Legislation Banning Racial Profiling

The New York State Assembly today announced the passage of legislation prohibiting law enforcement officers from engaging in racial or ethnic profiling (A3949, Wright). The legislation would also create a private right of action against law enforcement agencies for individuals who have been the subject of racial profiling, allowing courts to award damages, costs and reasonable attorney fees to a prevailing plaintiff.

"The current tension between law enforcement agencies and minority communities makes the passage of this legislation both necessary and timely," said Speaker Heastie. "I think we can all agree that racial profiling is wrong and infringes on the constitutional rights of minorities. However, New York law does not specifically prohibit racial profiling and there is no requirement to track statistics so we can better understand policing techniques and identify the extent of the problem. It is past time that we enact an outright prohibition on racial profiling and work towards fostering a more collaborative relationship between minority communities and law enforcement officers to ensure that all New Yorkers have the same rights and protections."

The bill would require every New York law enforcement agency to adopt procedures for reviewing complaints of racial or ethnic profiling and for taking corrective measures to prevent future incidents. It would also require law enforcement agencies to collect and maintain data on traffic stops, pat downs and searches which would be compiled in an annual report by the Division of Criminal Justice Services. The collected data would likewise be included in a statewide public database to promote transparency and integrity, as well as to inform both law enforcement and the community.

"The color of one's skin is insufficient cause to put them through a humiliating and unconstitutional search," said bill sponsor Keith Wright. "This legislation would end this practice and provide those who are subjected to racial profiling legal recourse while enabling victims to recover damages and deter future violations. The riff between communities and the police is damaging the integrity of our neighborhoods. Outlawing discriminatory police practices is a step in the right direction towards mending these wounds and expanding justice for all."