The New York Civil Liberties Union's challenge to the New York Police Department's policy of conducting random searches of subway riders goes to trial today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District.#160; The lawsuit claims that the suspicionless bag checks violate riders' Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches, are ineffective in enhancing public safety, and create the possibility of racial profiling in the searches.#160; While the NYPD insists that racial profiling will not be tolerated, critics believe that officers' wide discretion in selecting riders to search will allow a practice of targeting certain riders.#160; Shortly after the policy was implemented, Yogi Patell, a student of South Asian descent, complained that he was searched three times in one day. "I was on my way to Brooklyn. I'm interning at the Immigrant Defense Project, and I started off here in Flushing," Patell told NY1 News. Patell, a 3L at CUNY Law school, was searched as he got on the No. 7 train, after picking up documents at his school. He was searched a second time at Penn Station after meeting a friend. Patell was search for an improbable third time later that day at the Chambers Street station. "It's hard for me to say it's anything else other than profiling," he says.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg criticized the lawsuit arguing:"We have a responsibility to keep this city safe. It's a small price to pay to stay safe in this day and age." Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly also suggested that the lawsuit filed by the NYCLU was a publicity stunt and argued that searches are effective and constitutional. "To glibly assert that it's of no deterrence value is ill-informed at best. The Brooklyn Bridge is still standing because of increased police attention," according to Kelly. Brendan MacWade, a survivor of the 9/11 and named plaintiff in the case, said he became involved in the case because, when his bag was checked, "I felt that I was violated in some way. I was not engaged in criminal activity."
From Ashley Hatcher-Peralta, Editor-at-Large