View Full Version : New York Starts to Inspect Bags on the Subways

Law & Order
July 22nd, 2005, 06:25 AM

July 22nd, 2005, 08:59 AM
Having police around with rifles does NOT put me at ease. If someone came into the station with a bomb, these guys with rifles would just be on the list of victims and th efact that they were carrying heavier armorment will matter squat.

Searcing the bags is a novel idea, but it won't do much for us 4 months from now when everyone is wearing coats. You think Israel does not have tight security? They still get bombed. All these "precautions" are more to get the PEOPLE less panicked than anything else.

The best thing we can do is find these guys and groups BEFORE they hit, not while they are already in mission....

Some people see increased security, I see militant state and big brother slowly opening his eyes.

July 22nd, 2005, 10:10 AM
After the first London Bombing I noticed lots of cops around, but mostly they were chatting, or standing under skylights on their cells. Today I didn't see one cop, though I'm happy to acknowledge that the G train isn't a prime target.

July 22nd, 2005, 10:27 AM
I'm not saying you are wrong in any way, but I really want to see the guys with assualt rifles. Just because I like all that stuff, and I have had a chance to see quite a few weapons, but never a Mp5. I know alot of people hate all of the guns, but I dont mind. I would mind the wait, the hassle of having my stuff searched, and being caught on one of those news cameras, they dont even ask people whether or not they can release their identity. That could cause problems for me.

The problem becomes, what happens when they decide that the Steven King book you are reading puts you on a suspect list for possible unstability/risk?

I know SK is not the best example, but the problem with fear is that it is not logical, and it is very easy to abuse and use to grant authoritative power that wan not there before to the people in charge.

When that happens, your freedoms get infringed.

So, you aren't insulting when you say you like seeing that. I feel more like I am in a war zone, or, worse yet, that something bad is GOING to happen.

"Nothing to see here! Move along!"

July 22nd, 2005, 11:46 AM
Loaded automatic weapons and large crowds seems like a self-evidently bad combination.

July 22nd, 2005, 01:58 PM
The backpack, once a utility of the wilderness, has over the last few decades become a ubiquitous presence in urban life.

Now it has become a symbol of urban terror.

July 22nd, 2005, 02:01 PM
Wouldn't a more stylish messenger bag do just as well?

July 22nd, 2005, 02:35 PM
It's Not A Purse!!!!

It's A European Carry-all!!!

PS. When did we get auto-edit to eliminate all-caps? :P

July 22nd, 2005, 05:15 PM
I saw video of cops rifling through briefcases and little purses on the news. Why? Do they not understand how big a bomb is? Incompetence makes me feel much less safe.

July 24th, 2005, 12:06 AM
July 24, 2005
Legal Issues Being Raised on Searches in Subways

By SEWELL CHAN (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=SEWELL CHAN&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=SEWELL CHAN&inline=nyt-per) and KAREEM FAHIM (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=KAREEM FAHIM&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=KAREEM FAHIM&inline=nyt-per)
Even more than security experts and intelligence analysts, one group of employees has become central to the new program of bag searches in the transit networks of the New York region: lawyers.

The decision last week to have police officers inspect the belongings of thousands of subway riders has opened a thicket of legal and constitutional issues, involving criminal procedure, transit security and concerns about potential misuse of the new tactic.

Yesterday, Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the organization had begun work on a federal lawsuit, which could be filed this week. Such a challenge will most likely claim that the policy violates the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against "unreasonable searches and seizures."

And at a news conference in Brooklyn, Capt. Eric Adams, the president of a group of black police officers, said its members were worried that riders of Middle Eastern, African or Asian descent would be disproportionately targeted in the searches, despite official assurances to the contrary.

Tomorrow, New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey plan to start random searches on their trains and in their buses and stations, joining the city police and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which began conducting searches on Friday.

The four agencies have tried to sidestep a potential legal minefield by carefully specifying the limits and objectives of the policies, but the legality of the searches could well rest on subtle distinctions in the way they are carried out.

"It is by no means a foregone conclusion that these searches will be found reasonable under the Fourth Amendment," said Tracey Maclin, a law professor at Boston University. "The number of people involved, the nature and severity of the intrusions and the uncertain duration of the searches all make this is fundamentally very different from anything we have seen before."

At least three United States Supreme Court cases will probably influence any judge assessing the searches.

In 1979, in Delaware v. Prouse, the court held that random traffic stops, left to the discretion of police officers, were unconstitutional. In 1990, in Michigan v. Sitz, the court upheld the legality of sobriety checkpoints in which a consistent proportion of drivers was stopped. The court ruled that such roadblocks were permitted as a way to prevent drunken driving.

The court has set limits on those roadblocks, however. In 2000, in Indianapolis v. Edmond, it struck down the use of traffic checkpoints to stop drivers so that trained dogs could sniff the vehicles for narcotics. Unlike checkpoints to make sure that drivers were sober or had valid licenses and registrations, the court said, roadblocks for general law enforcement were unconstitutional.

David D. Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University, said the government was likely to succeed in demonstrating a special need for the current searches in New York.

A judge evaluating a legal challenge, he said, would probably look at three factors: whether the searches are truly random or use standardized criteria; whether riders were given advance notice or provided their consent to the searches; and the degree of intrusiveness. "It's very hard to predict how these cases will turn out, because it's such an open-ended balancing test," he said.

According to a two-page directive sent to all police commanders late Thursday, the searches were begun "to increase deterrence and detection of potential terrorist activity and to give greater protection to the mass transit-riding public." The directive authorized the police to inspect "backpacks, containers and other carry-on items which are capable of containing explosive devices."

The policy includes several provisions that could help in defending the new searches from court challenges.

First, although Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly have described the searches as "random," they should rely on a precise frequency that is not subject to officers' discretion, according to the directive.

A supervisor at each checkpoint is supposed to determine the frequency of searches - 1 in every 5, 12 or 20 passengers, for example - based on the volume of passengers, the number of officers available and the "flow of commuter traffic."

Second, extensive steps were taken to notify the public about the searches. At subway stations and train terminals, megaphone and public-address systems were used. Notices were handwritten on dry-erase boards in the booths in most subway stations. At many checkpoints, the police have set up signs on easels near the turnstiles.

The directive states that individuals who refuse to be searched can leave the subway system, and that such a refusal "shall not constitute probable cause for an arrest or reasonable suspicion for a forcible stop."

The degree of intrusiveness could become a thorny issue. The directive provides that officers may open a package and "physically inspect and manipulate the contents to ensure it does not contain an explosive device." Leaving aside the issue of illegal drugs or weapons, some riders have already voiced misgivings about having the police examine sensitive possessions, like medications and personal hygiene products.

Lawyers have been used extensively in writing the search policies. The deputy police commissioner for legal matters, S. Andrew Schaffer, formerly the general counsel for New York University, joined Mr. Kelly and top police commanders on Thursday morning as they completed their plans for the searches.

Similarly, Catherine A. Rinaldi, the general counsel for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, was "intimately involved" in plans for searches on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Commuter Railroad, according to Tom Kelly, a spokesman for the authority.

Ronald Susswein, an assistant attorney general in New Jersey, said that the New Jersey Transit searches would not be conducted arbitrarily. "This is not a criminal enforcement procedure," he said. "We're not trying to catch anyone. We're trying to deter terrorism."

While the majority of riders interviewed since Thursday said they supported the searches, a few have expressed concerns.

"For a split second, I thought that because of my skin complexion, they picked me," said James Hamilton, 38, whose attaché case was searched yesterday at Herald Square. "I'm not sure if I had brown hair and blue eyes, that that would have happened." He has black hair, dark brown eyes and a dark complexion.

Charles Wilson, 35, a schoolteacher whose bag was searched late Friday at Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan, said, "This is not going to make things better between the police and people of color." Mr. Wilson is black.

Captain Adams, whose organization, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, held the news conference yesterday, said he believed that discrimination was likely in practice, if not intent. "You can say 'no profiling,' but when you have a police department that has a history of profiling, it is going to practice what it knows," he said.

A police spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said he strongly disagreed. "These inspections are being conducted in a constitutional manner and have been met with enthusiastic cooperation by the overwhelming majority of riders we've come into contact with," he said yesterday.

Ann Farmer, Patrick McGeehan and Jess Wisloski contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

July 24th, 2005, 12:55 PM
I'm just askin.... doesnt this practice of searching every fifth person, really slow down the progress of folks just trying to get to and from work? I mean, the subways are always crowded during the work day and it would seem that checking folks at the turnstyles, rejecting those who refuse to open up their bags for searches, and searching the rest, would cause people to be held up for a undeterminate time. Also, wouldnt the ones that refuse to be searched, just go on to another subway entrance and get on there? I just dont see the effectivness in this. I would imagine that if I were carrying a bomb in my backpack and I noticed that people were being searched, I probably wouldnt get in line.... (shrug)

Another thing... its very important to our government for people to be afraid. The Patriot Act, the color alerts, searching bags in terminals, increased airport security, blah, blah, blah... this has all been magnified to make us afraid, so that when our governemnt decides to nuke and invade Iran, or Pakistan or wherever we go next, will will be right there with them....these guys are genuises!!

In my opinion, we are no less safe than we were on 9/10. Yes, we should be scruitinizing, yes, we should be more alert to things out of the norm, but I for one, REFUSE to live my life, every day afraid, like they live in Palestine or Isreal.
(down off soapbox)