The New York Police Department wants suspects to sign a consent form before searching their homes or cars, Newsday reports. The change would eliminates the need for a warrant and is meant to provide police a layer of legal protection. The initiative was put in place because consent searches are often challenged at trial – and jurors too often believe the suspect’s claim that police never got permission to conduct the search.
At the same time, there has been concern within the police department about a handful of cases in which an officer’s truthfulness was called into question. A federal judge said he found it “wholly plausible” that a sergeant forced his way into an apartment to conduct a search despite the sergeant’s contention otherwise. In the case, the city paid $280,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit. The consent form has been used by the FBI for years and is already in place in a number of police departments around the U.S. The New York Civil Liberties Union says the forms have an obvious upside because it adds to the record of a particular interaction between officer and civilian.