NYPD cops blasted a federal judge’s ruling aimed at stopping them from searching demonstrators’ bags outside the Republican National Convention, saying the decision gives “an open door to terrorists.”
Manhattan Federal Judge Robert Sweet’s decision – made public yesterday – prohibits blanket searches of bulky bags and backpacks in the absence of a “specific threat.”
“In this day and age of terrorism, it’s an extremely dangerous step in a very dangerous time in New York City,” said an outraged Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association.
“It’s giving an open door to terrorists, and further handcuffing police at a time that they should be given a little bit more latitude,” Palladino said. He said he plans to urge Mayor Bloomberg to appeal the ruling.
Sweet’s decision also limits how many streets the NYPD can close around Madison Square Garden, and prohibits cops from penning protesters behind metal barricades.
The ruling does not prevent the use of hand-held metal-detecting wands around the perimeter of the convention.
Sweet wrote that his ruling is an attempt to “define a resolution which can serve to encourage free expression in a secure society.”
He described the preventive measure by police as an “invasion of personal privacy.”
Christopher Dunn, an attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union, called it a “historic victory.”
But NYPD officials interpreted it another way – insisting their plan to handle protesters outside the convention would not be greatly affected by the ruling.
They noted that Sweet conceded that blanket bag searches could occur on a case-by-case basis if police officials could demonstrate there was a specific danger to public safety.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the NYPD had frequently banned bags from large public gatherings or searched backpacks for explosives.
“The court endorsed policies that Police Commissioner [Raymond] Kelly had already put into practice. It also articulated that threat is a reason to justify searches in certain instances,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Paul Browne said in a statement yesterday.
“The decision does not cause the Police Department to change any plans or tactics for safeguarding the Republican National Convention or the demonstrations associated with it. In effect, the court accepted existing department practices as reasonable and rational.”
Those practices were adopted after a 2003 anti-war rally ended with several cops being injured, and 240 demonstrators arrested.
Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch declined comment on the ruling.