NYPD Won't Say No

Police Here Adopt Ethnic Profiling Their Western Counterparts Reject

In fact, said Justice Department spokeswoman Casey Stavropoulos, all U.S. attorneys' offices have been directed not to release such information. In a sign that police objections have had real impact, she said the U.S. attorney's office in Oregon only revealed details—for instance, that 23 individuals are wanted for questioning in Portland—in the wake of controversy caused by local police scrutiny.

Beyond concerns about profiling, such scrutiny reflects doubt about whether a sweeping manhunt is good police work. "I think there's an issue of trust if we become involved in these interviews," said San Jose police chief Lansdowne. "It's taken us years to build that level of trust. If people had information involving terrorists, the information would come to us because we have that level of trust and rapport. We are very clear to the federal government that we think we can get the information by working with the community," he said.

Indeed, the interview effort is merely frightening away already wary community members, according to Nick Khoury, president of the New York chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. "A lot of these people leave their countries because they want to leave a police state. They have no confidence when somebody says, come and meet with the police voluntarily—that scares them," he said. He and other advocates are advising those contacted not to answer questions without an attorney and to learn their rights. His organization has posted a "know your rights" fact sheet, compiled by the National Lawyers Guild, on its web site, www.adc.org.

Lansdowne's community-oriented rationale is what New York civil liberties advocates are hoping will arrive with the next mayoral administration and its police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, who was also police commissioner under David Dinkins. Mayor Giuliani and former police commissioner Howard Safir presided during the infamous police killings of innocent civilians Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond and drew repeated accusations of police misconduct and brutality. Current commissioner Bernard Kerik, according to City Council public safety committee chair Sheldon Leffler, has been unwilling to respond to concerns over his policing tactics. But Kelly—whose office referred Voice calls to mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg's press office, which did not respond—has won praise from some critics of the Giuliani years. "Kelly has a strong interest in community policing," civil liberties lawyer Goodman said. "I have hopes that he will improve the situation with racial profiling."

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