Civil libertarians want a federal judge to prevent cops from questioning and frisking passengers who are pulled from livery cars and taxis during an NYPD program aimed at preventing robberies.
The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court Thursday, alleging police routinely victimize innocent passengers -- even after the drivers have told police they are not in any danger.
Drivers who participate in TRIP -- Taxi/Livery Robbery Inspection Program -- affix a decal on their back windshield, an indication that they consent to having police stop them at random.
The suit says police have every right to question the driver. It's the questioning of the passengers that raised flags for the NYCLU.
"Nothing about the program, however, can or does authorize officers to detain, question, frisk or search passengers without independent suspicion of wrongdoing," the suit says. "Nonetheless, the NYPD has a practice of doing so, with officers apparently believing that driver participation in the program means that passengers consent to this treatment.
Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, the NYPD's top spokesman, defended TRIP.
"Police stops save lives," he said. "So does the TRIP program."
[One of the two named plaintiffs in the lawsuit is] Munir Pujara, a 37-year-old lawyer who lives in Harlem and works in the Bronx.
According to the lawsuit, the livery he was riding in was pulled over in the Bronx in September by two officers. The driver said he was not in any danger, but that the officers threatened to arrest Pujara, who is of South Asian descent, if he didn't get out of the car.
Pujara, familiar with TRIP because he had defended a client in an unrelated case, got out of the car and was frisked. He contested the legality of what the officers were doing but one of the officers, he said, pointed to the TRIP decal as a legal basis for the search.
What Is Happening to My City, Part...I've Lost Count
The slow boiling of our liberties by our authoritarian overlords continues unabated: