New York Gov. David Paterson has terrible approval ratings, he is mired in a domestic violence and cover-up scandal involving one of his aides, and he's just generally considered a failure as a governor. But for civil libertarians concerned about criminal justice issues, he's really come through.
Today he will be signing a bill prohibiting the NYPD from storing the personal information -- names, addresses, Social Security numbers -- of individuals stopped and searched by the police but against whom no further action is taken. According to the New York chapter of the ACLU, since 2004, the NYPD has stopped people more than 3 million times, 90 percent of whom did nothing wrong. This has resulted in what is basically a de-facto dragnet against blacks and Latinos, who, make up 80 percent of those stopped. That's despite the fact that whites were slightly more likely to be found with drugs or weapons. The police will still be allowed to keep a database that contains "generic" information such as race, gender, and the location of the stop.
Paterson tried and failed to get marriage equality passed. But he did manage to reform the state's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. This doesn't redeem his other failures, but when it comes to criminal justice, Paterson has really made a difference in New York.
(Flickr/Long Island Business News)