Somebody Already Sued the NYPD Over Controversial Body Scanners


During his ‘State of the NYPD’ address on Wednesday, NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly announced that his department “took delivery” of mobile terhertz devices that can scan people for concealed weapons. Although Kelly carefully skirted the issue of stop-and-frisk, he went into detail about his latest equipment, explaining that the scanners would be portable and mounted inside trucks.

Well, somebody is already suing the city over the new technology. His name is Jonathan Corbett, an activist who has previously taken on the TSA over their body scanners, which render nearly-nude images of passengers’ bodies. On his blog, TSA Out of Our Pants, he calls our police force’s latest toy a “virtual stop-and-frisk” and says he objects to the NYPD using it to “peer under your clothes for ‘anything dangerous’ — guns, bombs, the Constitution — from up to 25 yards away for, you know, our safety.”

His lawsuit, which he filed this morning, includes a motion for injunction — a move that aims to keep the scanners from ever making it onto the streets of New York. In the motion, he notes, “While stop-and-frisks are abused at an alarming rate even when the courts are watching, an individual instance of a virtual stop-and-frisk via a Scanner would never see judicial review since no one will know when they have happened.” In other words, if the scanners aren’t stopped, NYPD would be able to peer into your pockets without you ever finding out.

A cop who initiates a stop-and-frisk must do so with the reasonable suspicion that their target has committed or intends to commit a crime. It’s pretty easy to see how the scanners could be abused, since establishing reasonable suspicion from 25 yards away has got to be tough.

Corbett also argues, “New Yorkers deserve to know whether their police department may lawfully peer under their clothing before they become victims, not after, and if such searches are lawful, they deserve to be protected from secret searches of which they will never be informed.” Personally, we couldn’t agree more.

You can see the full text of Corbett’s lawsuit here and his injunction here.