NYCLU Urges Commuters to Report Experiences with Police Bag Searches on Mass Transit

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
July 22, 2005 12:00 am

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NEW YORK — The New York Civil Liberties Union today launched an online form for commuters to report their encounters with police conducting searches on public transportation. The NYCLU will analyze the complaints and possibly challenge the constitutionality of the methods and practices used by the police in conducting these searches.

“Empowering police officers to conduct random searches of individuals without suspicion of criminal wrongdoing constitutes a gross infringement of the fundamental rights and liberties of persons living in a free society,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “Conducting random searches of persons traveling in the mass transit system will do little if anything to enhance public safety.”

On July 21st, the New York Police Department announced that it will begin randomly searching bags, including backpacks and packages, brought into the mass transit system and will continue these searches indefinitely. The NYCLU opposes this random search policy, and notes that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 12, of the New York State Constitution protect against unreasonable searches of one’s person or possessions.

The NYCLU also said that this practice may divert attention and resources from efforts that provide meaningful protection against acts of terrorism.

In addition to asking for reports on police searches through the complaint form, the NYCLU also has posted Know Your Rights guidelines on its Web site so that people will understand what their rights are if they are subject to a search.

The complaint form is available online at

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