Friday, February 20, 2009
Lawsuit Alleges Racial Profiling At Subway Checkpoints
The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a Brooklyn hospital manager who it says has been the repeated victim of racial profiling at NYPD subway bag search checkpoints.
Jangir Sultan, a 32-year-old native New Yorker whose parents are both from Kashmir says he has been stopped and searched by police officers three dozen times times since the NYPD initiated the subway checkpoint program in 2005. The suit alleges that Sultan’s South Asian appearance is the only factor that can explain this persistent targeting by police officers.
“The NYPD’s racial profiling has disrupted Mr. Sultan’s life making every subway trip a source of anxiety,” said Donna Lieberman , NYCLU executive director. “The NYPD must be held accountable for repeatedly singling out an innocent, hardworking young man for humiliating bag searches. Sadly, his experience is not surprising. The subway bag search program purports to be random but it is set up to invite police officers to engage in racial discrimination.”
The issue of profiling people at security checkpoints is a hot topic in the United States. Civil libertarians insist that security checkpoint checks should be random to avoid discrimination. But some security experts, like former NYPD police officer Gary Moskowitz, argue that police should always profile in their quest to stop criminal activity.
For example, to take it to the absurd, if a green obese tall woman robs a bank, why would police stop short purple thin men and question them?
Moskowitz says the profiling shouldn't be based solely on physical appearance but should also take into account a person's demeanor. The Israelis, with whom he has consulted, have been very successful in their profiling of potential terrorists.
The police department denies it profiles subway passengers. It says searches of bags are conducted at random intervals prescribed by a supervisor on the scene.
The lawsuit maintains that Sultan’s constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments were violated and names the NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly and the city of New York as defendants.
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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kenstein/42270793/