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Stop-and-frisk law will help Queens residents: Officials

Queens leaders are applauding Gov. David Paterson’s decision to change the way the police conduct stop-and-frisk procedures.

After two weeks, the state Legislature passed the bill Friday and the governor approved the measure that prevents the NYPD from keeping data on innocent people who were stopped and frisked.

The law came about after several groups and elected officials criticized the Police Department for its numerous stop and frisks conducted in the city, especially in inner-city neighborhoods like Jamaica and Corona, and found that´╗┐ 90 percent of those cases involve innocent civilians, according to state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights).

“I am deeply concerned that [this] disturbing trend has created a culture of distrust for the police and a feeling of disrespect towards our constituents. This bill will go a long way in improving police and community relations,” he said in a statement.

The law, which was introduced by state Sen. Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn), mandates that police offices cannot maintain databases that contain information gathered from stop-and-frisk suspects who are innocent. In the past, the NYPD would collect the names, addresses and other information in a database for possible use in future investigations.

City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to lobby the governor not to sign the bill, but Paterson still went ahead with his plans.

“There is a principle — which is compatible with the presumption of innocence and is deeply ingrained in our sense of justice — that individuals wrongly accused of a crime should suffer neither stigma nor adverse consequences by virtue of an arrest or criminal accusation not resulting in conviction,” Paterson said in a statement.

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) voted against the bill in the Senate based on the concerns of the mayor and commissioner.

“I’m going [on] what they were saying,” he said. “This information was important with them in dealing with problems.”

City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) agreed.

“As categories of crime continue to rise throughout the city, the NYPD needs every available tool at its disposal to keep our streets safe,” he said in a statement.

Studies from groups such as the New York Civil Liberties Union have shown that the majority of stop-and-frisk cases involved black and Latino men and women. Leaders in southeast Queens, such as City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton), said the law would help police because it would make them less feared in the community.

“Today an enormous step was taken to build bridges between the NYPD and citizens,” he said in a statement.

City Comptroller John Liu also expressed his concern over the database and said its removal was needed to protect the New Yorker’s rights.

“In our free society, there is simply no justification for the police to keep such a massive database of millions of individuals who haven’t done anything wrong,” he said in a statement.

Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) also praised the bill’s passage, but said more can be done by both the police and public to improve law enforcement in the neighborhood. He said precincts should reach out to community members and residents should act more open with officers to decrease suspicion between both groups.

“We have a lot of young people in the area who need to have good relations with the police,” he said. “It’s important that we be responsible as well. We have to keep our youth from getting into problems with the police.”

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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