NYPD Beats ACLU in Court Battle Over Anti-Terrorism Program
by Jim Kouri, CPP
A US appeals court ruled in favor of New York City Police Department conducting random bag searches at subway station entrances throughout the city. The court said that it viewed the random searches "as an adequate method to curb terrorism."
"In light of the thwarted plots to bomb New York City's subway system, its continued desirability as a target, and the recent bombings of transportation systems in Madrid, Moscow, and London, the risk to public safety is substantial and real," the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals said in its ruling.
The court shot down the New York (American) Civil Liberties Union position that random bag searches were unconstitutional and ineffective for pinning terrorists. The NYCLU had filed a lawsuit against the NYPD upon learning of the random subway station searches in what many police officers -- including this writer's cousin who is involved in supervising the searches -- characterize as a knee-jerk reaction to protecting New Yorkers from terrorism.
The court had heard testimony from counterterrorism experts who argued and demonstrated the effectiveness of the searches.
"The expert testimony established that terrorists seek predictable and vulnerable targets, and the program generates uncertainty that frustrates that goal, which in turn, deters and attack," the court said.
While the court concurred that the searches do invade the riders' privacy, "the kind of search at issue here minimally intrudes upon that interest" as random searches were limited to bags and only last seconds. The searches are viewed as unobtrusive by NYPD officers. This writer's police officer cousin said that of the thousands of subway passengers who've had bags searched, perhaps two or three complained about the procedure.
"Most New Yorkers look at the searches as something to talk about at the water cooler and they take them in good stride. You'll always have a couple of people who will mouth-off, but they're few and far between," said Officer Edna Aguayo.
The court's final decision follows the events in the United Kingdom revealing the terrorist plot to bomb passenger aircraft destined for US citizens.
"The program -- whose constitutionality two federal courts have now recognized -- enhances the safety of millions of New York City subway riders," said Kate O'Brien Ahlers, spokeswoman for the New York City Law Department.
The ACLU continues to file their nuisance lawsuits following the announcement of just about any antiterrorism program, whether it be national or local. In the case of the subway bag searches, their attorneys cited Fourth Amendment violations. The amendment protects citizens from "unreasonable search and seizure."
In essence, the circuit court of appeals found the searches reasonable.
Another case being pursued by the NYCLU, which is the New York chapter of the ACLU, is one involving city police entering the immigration status of non-citizens they've arrested.
NYCLU and ACLU were among several organizations that filed a joint complaint on behalf of various immigration-advocacy groups. The complaint claimed that this policy has induced state and local police to make federal immigration arrests that Congress has forbidden.
The suit seeks to stop the police from continuing the policy while removing all relevant information from the criminal database. The ACLU claims that Congress has been quite specific in describing the documents that may be included in the National Crime Information Center database, in recognition of the need to guard against the too casual inclusion of names in the criminal database and the recognition that such information is accessible to local police agencies across the country.
Opponents of the ACLU say that the purpose of this legal action is to prevent the federal government from gathering information on crimes committed by illegal aliens for statistical purposes. They say the ACLU -- which very sympathetic to illegal aliens -- wants to prevent citizens from learning how may crimes are committed by illegal aliens in the United States.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.