The New York Police Department has finally finished deleting what was an illegal database of fingerprints obtained from juvenile offenders more than two years after being ordered to do so by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).
Calls to delete the database originated in 2014 after an arrest of a youth was made using fingerprint records that had been kept by the NYPD following a previous arrest. It is a violation of state law under the Family Court Act to keep fingerprints of persons under the age of 16 after the records had been transmitted to the DCJS.
The database — which contained tens of thousands of fingerprints — was challenged by the Legal Aid Society as an illegal practice, and they have called on city lawmakers to hold a hearing on the NYPD’s use of surveillance and data collection technology, as well as calling for a law to be passed to give the public more oversight over the use of these tools.
“This illegal database has existed for years, infringing on young New Yorkers’ rights, in clear violation of the law,” said Dawne Mitchell, the attorney-in-charge of the Legal Aid Society’s juvenile rights practice.
Under what is known as ‘Raise the Age’ legislation, there has been a push in recent years in the state to reconsider who is defined as a juvenile, in which people under 18 who are charged with misdemeanors will be tried in a family court, while nonviolent felonies start in a new criminal court section for youths before moving to family court.
New York City councilman Donovan Richards, chair of the Law Enforcement Committee that oversees the NYPD and an outspoken critic on the issue greeted the move by the police department as a positive step, saying, “As we all know having juvenile fingerprints in a system like this only ensures they will continue to be criminalized for the rest of their life. I’m glad the NYPD has agreed to take juveniles out of their systems, but there’s still more work to be done to ensure transparency in all the databases maintained by the NYPD.”
November 15, 2019 – by Tony Bitzionis