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NYPD uses X-ray devices 'lawfully' and does not spy on public, Commissioner William Bratton says

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton testifies at a hearing

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton testifies at a hearing in New York City on Sept. 8, 2015. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Contrary to suggestions made in litigation, the NYPD is not generally using X-ray devices to spy on the public in a search for weapons, Police Commissioner William Bratton said Tuesday.

Responding to legal papers filed in court by the New York Civil Liberties Union that said special police vans were equipped with X-rays, Bratton said "they are not being used to scan people for weapons."

"The devices we have, the vehicles if you will, are all used lawfully and if the ACLU and others don't think that is the case, we will see them in court, where they will lose," Bratton said.

The NYCLU filed a friend of the court brief in state court to help a freedom of information request by a journalist at the public interest website Pro Publica for access to documents that show how the NYPD used so-called X-ray back scatter machines, similar to those airports employ to screen certain passengers.

"We know very little about how they are being used," said NYCLU attorney Mariko Hirose about the X-ray vans.

An NYPD official who didn't want to be named said the devices aren't used to scan for weapons in city neighborhoods but have appeared at special events such as the recent UN General Assembly meeting in Manhattan. NYPD legal counsel is consulted when the vans are deployed, the official said.

Bratton wouldn't disclose how the vans were being used, citing security concerns.


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