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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Police in NYC Public Schools are Out of Control Says the NYCLU

300 student busts were illegal, NYCLU tells Police Commissioner Ray Kelly
By CARRIE MELAGO, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER, Wednesday, October 8th 2008, 10:22 PM

Police are not allowed to arrest kids under 16 for violations, such as loitering, without a warrant - only for actual crimes.

More than 300 students were illegally arrested in schools from 2005 to 2007, the NYCLU charged Wednesday in a letter to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Based on police data, the group alleges that school safety agents handcuffed and hauled students off to precincts for minor infractions like loitering and trespassing.

Under state law, children younger than 16 can only be taken into custody without a warrant if they have committed a crime, not a violation.

"The number of such arrests suggests that NYPD personnel are either unaware of the legal mandate imposed by New York law or are deliberately ignoring it," the letter states.

According to the data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, 309 kids under age 16 were unlawfully arrested from 2005 to 2007 for disorderly conduct, loitering, trespassing and other non-criminal offenses.

"These children aren't criminals," said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. "Arresting children for minor infractions in their own schools - in front of their teachers and peers - only stigmatizes and humiliates them."

An NYPD spokesman disputed the NYCLU's findings, saying that while students can't be criminally prosecuted for these offenses, the NYPD is not "powerless" to address the behavior.

"The NYPD has an obligation under the law to act to maintain order, preserve the peace and protect everyone in the school environment from the consequences of these unlawful behaviors," Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said in a statement.

Community groups pushed the City Council last summer to pass a Student Safety Act, which includes letting students file complaints with the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Jaritza Geigel, 17, a senior at the Bushwick School for Social Justice in Brooklyn, wasn't surprised to hear about the arrests, saying she feels hassled by safety agents at her school.

"Students shouldn't go to school and feel like criminals. We go to school to get an education," she said.
With Alison Gendar

From Betsy Combier:
New York City public school parents have become aware that we may have a police state in New York City. Certainly the arrests of kids, false reports made against teachers and innocent people, and other unjust actions such as these - including corruption in the New York State Unified Court System (which I will contribute to the exposure of very soon)- give the perception that the NYC police have become a force to be reckoned with. See the information below, from the NYCLU website:

NYCLU Sues NYPD for Information on Massive Surveillance Plan
September 8, 2008
The NYCLU's Petition (PDF)
The New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court challenging the NYPD’s refusal to disclose information about its plan to create a massive surveillance network in downtown Manhattan.

The plan, called the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, would establish a network of 3,000 public and private surveillance cameras to monitor and track vehicles and pedestrians south of Canal Street. The system would allow the Department to maintain a database on the movement and whereabouts of millions of law-abiding New Yorkers.

Modeled after London’s often criticized Ring of Steel surveillance network, the system is expected to cost about $100 million. The NYPD developed the surveillance plan without seeking any public input.

“The NYPD is planning blanket surveillance of millions of law-abiding New Yorkers, but it refuses to disclose even the simplest details of this costly proposal,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director. “A plan of this scope, expense and intrusiveness demands robust public debate and legislative oversight. The public has a right to this information.”

In October 2007, the NYCLU served the NYPD with a formal legal request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law to turn over documents pertaining to the planned surveillance system. After months of stalling, the NYPD gave only 91 pages of documents that came nowhere near satisfying the NYCLU’s request. Given the plan’s magnitude, the Department must have thousands of documents that it is withholding from the public. After exhausting its administrative appeals, the NYCLU is now forced to sue for the information.

“This proposed system, which would result in the police tracking millions of law-abiding New Yorkers, has profound privacy implications,” said Christopher Dunn, NYCLU associate legal director and lead counsel on the case. “Since the police department continues to embrace government secrecy, we are left with no option but to turn to the courts to force public disclosure about what the NYPD plans to do with all of this information about innocent people.”

The NYCLU is seeking details about:

*the scope of information to be collected about law-abiding people;
*how the police intend to use the information;
*who the police will share the information with;
*how long the police will store the information before destroying it;
*any privacy protections included in the system;
*which private surveillance systems, such as bank security cameras, will become part of the system;
*assessments of the Ring of Steel system, upon which the plan is modeled;
*and the extent to which city funds are being used to create the system.

Last month, news reports disclosed a further plan (“Operation Sentinel”) to photograph and track every vehicle entering Manhattan and then keep data on each vehicle in a police database.

“The public and our elected officials can’t keep reading about these programs in the paper,” Lieberman said. “Government secrecy is completely at odds with government accountability. Democracy dies behind closed doors.”

NYCLU staff attorney Matt Faiella is co-counsel on the case.

See also:
July 9, 2007

By the end of this year, police officials say, more than 100 cameras will have begun monitoring cars moving through Lower Manhattan, the beginning phase of a London-style surveillance system that would be the first in the United States.

The Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, as the plan is called, will resemble London's so-called Ring of Steel, an extensive web of cameras and roadblocks designed to detect, track and deter terrorists. British officials said images captured by the cameras helped track suspects after the London subway bombings in 2005 and the car bomb plots last month.

If the program is fully financed, it will include not only license plate readers but also 3,000 public and private security cameras below Canal Street, as well as a center staffed by the police and private security officers, and movable roadblocks.

''This area is very critical to the economic lifeblood of this nation,'' New York City's police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, said in an interview last week. ''We want to make it less vulnerable.''

But critics question the plan's efficacy and cost, as well as the implications of having such heavy surveillance over such a broad swath of the city.

For a while, it appeared that New York could not even afford such a system. Last summer, Mr. Kelly said that the program was in peril after the city's share of Homeland Security urban grant money was cut by nearly 40 percent.

But Mr. Kelly said last week that the department had since obtained $25 million toward the estimated $90 million cost of the plan. Fifteen million dollars came from Homeland Security grants, he said, while another $10 million came from the city, more than enough to install 116 license plate readers in fixed and mobile locations, including cars and helicopters, in the coming months.

The readers have been ordered, and Mr. Kelly said he hoped the rest of the money would come from additional federal grants.

The license plate readers would check the plates' numbers and send out alerts if suspect vehicles were detected. The city is already seeking state approval to charge drivers a fee to enter Manhattan below 86th Street, which would require the use of license plate readers. If the plan is approved, the police will most likely collect information from those readers too, Mr. Kelly said.

But the downtown security plan involves much more than keeping track of license plates. Three thousand surveillance cameras would be installed below Canal Street by the end of 2008, about two-thirds of them owned by downtown companies. Some of those are already in place. Pivoting gates would be installed at critical intersections; they would swing out to block traffic or a suspect car at the push of a button.

Unlike the 250 or so cameras the police have already placed in high-crime areas throughout the city, which capture moving images that have to be downloaded, the security initiative cameras would transmit live information instantly.

The operation will cost an estimated $8 million to run the first year, Mr. Kelly said. Its headquarters will be in Lower Manhattan, he said, though the police were still negotiating where exactly it will be. The police and corporate security agents will work together in the center, said Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the police. The plan does not need City Council approval, he said.

The Police Department is still considering whether to use face-recognition technology, an inexact science that matches images against those in an electronic database, or biohazard detectors in its Lower Manhattan network, Mr. Browne said.

The entire operation is forecast to be in place and running by 2010, in time for the projected completion of several new buildings in the financial district, including the new Goldman Sachs world headquarters.

Civil liberties advocates said they were worried about misuse of technology that tracks the movement of thousands of cars and people,

Would this mean that every Wall Street broker, every tourist munching a hot dog near the United States Court House and every sightseer at ground zero would constantly be under surveillance?

''This program marks a whole new level of police monitoring of New Yorkers and is being done without any public input, outside oversight, or privacy protections for the hundreds of thousands of people who will end up in N.Y.P.D. computers,'' Christopher Dunn, a lawyer with the New York Civil Liberties Union, wrote in an e-mail message.

He said he worried about what would happen to the images once they were archived, how they would be used by the police and who else would have access to them.

Already, according to a report last year by the civil liberties group, there are nearly 4,200 public and private surveillance cameras below 14th Street, a fivefold increase since 1998, with virtually no oversight over what becomes of the recordings.

Mr. Browne said that the Police Department would have control over how the material is used. He said that the cameras would be recording in ''areas where there's no expectation of privacy'' and that law-abiding citizens had nothing to fear.

''It would be used to intercept a threat coming our way, but not to collect data indiscriminately on individuals,'' he said.

Mr. Browne said software tracking the cameras' images would be designed to pick up suspicious behavior. If, for example, a bag is left unattended for a certain length of time, or a suspicious car is detected repeatedly circling the same block, the system will send out an alert, he said.

Still, there are questions about whether such surveillance devices indeed serve their purpose.

There is little evidence to suggest that security cameras deter crime or terrorists, said James J. Carafano, a senior fellow for homeland security at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group in Washington.

For all its comprehensiveness, London's Ring of Steel, which was built in the early 1990s to deter Irish Republican Army attacks, did not prevent the July 7, 2005, subway bombings or the attempted car bombings in London last month. But the British authorities said the cameras did prove useful in retracing the paths of the suspects' cars last month, leading to several arrests.

While having 3,000 cameras whirring at the same time means loads of information will be captured, it also means there will be a lot of useless data to sift through.

''The more hay you have, the harder it is to find the needle,'' said Mr. Carafano.

Correction: July 12, 2007, Thursday A front-page article on Monday about New York City's plan to set up an extensive network of cameras and roadblocks in Lower Manhattan to thwart terrorism reversed the sources of the $25 million secured to help pay for the network. The Department of Homeland Security has contributed $10 million and the city $15 million. The article also referred incompletely to the status of the plan. It does not need City Council approval because the Council has already approved the budget that includes the $15 million outlay.

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