By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
New York City has been touted as being tough on guns. Earlier this year, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law the NY SAFE Act, a law further tightening restrictions on gun access. Now, the New York City Police Department has implemented its own form of gun control: high-tech scanners.
The new technology will allow the NYPD to detect whether or not an individual is in possession of a concealed weapon. The controversial scanner will use terahertz, sub-millimeter radiation waves emitted by people and inanimate objects, to detect hidden weapons.
“If something is obstructing the flow of that radiation [wave], for example a weapon, the device will highlight that object,” said NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
Jay Schwitzman, president of the Kings County Criminal Bar Association, cites the scanner as a wonderful piece of new technology. “Any technology that helps detect illegal guns is great,” Schwitzman said. “Guns should not be in the hands of people without a gun license and such concealed guns without a permit should not be on the street.”
The scanners are being presented as a new tool to combat weapons in the New York City streets, and many attorneys are concerned about the technology’s potential overreach. “It’s basically a privacy issue, a civil rights issue,” commented Brooklyn attorney Sam Karliner. Unlike metal detectors at any airport, Karliner noted that with the NYPD weapon scanners, “You are not intentionally going through it so you don’t have the choice to avoid it,” Karliner.
The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has also expressed its concerns regarding the new scanner and the violation of privacy rights. “It’s worrisome,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. “It implicates privacy, the right to walk down the street without being subjected to a virtual pat-down by the Police Department when you’re doing nothing wrong.”
Karliner agreed, asserting, “If the scan is broad, then it’s probably a violation of your rights and a general metal detector is broad.
“If the scanner can’t detect the difference between a lumpy wallet and a handgun, then it is a violation of your rights,” he continued.
“I don’t think it oversteps any privacy bounds,” said Schwitzman. “It is merely scanning you as you walk out in the street. The police are not physically accosting you and the scanner is [presumably] not scanning your private areas.”
Not everyone has faith in the NYPD. “I can’t wait to see how they mess up this one,” said criminal attorney Michael Discioarro. Discioarro questioned the location placement of the new scanners. “I can’t imagine that they are going to put it at 58th and Madison Avenue. I imagine it’ll be used in central Brooklyn, south Bronx and Harlem. It’s a high-tech stop and frisk.”
The NYPD admits that there are still some kinks that need to be worked out. “We still have a number of trials to run before we can determine how best to deploy this technology,” Kelly said. “We’re also talking to our legal staff about this. But we are very pleased with the progress we’ve made over the past year.”
Rob Abruzzese contributed to this article.