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Rocky Signs Two Major Crime Bills

Mar. 3, 1964 - Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York signed his two major crime bills today despite opposition from bar and civil rights groups challenging their constitutionality. The Governor defended the bills — which have been dubbed the “no-knock” and “stop-and-frisk” bills — as needed to strengthen law enforcement in an era in which crime is increasing four times as fast as the population.

By far the more controversial is the “stop-and-frisk” bill, which permits a policeman to detain a person in a public place when he “reasonably” suspects him of having committed a felony or serious misdemeanor. The policeman may demand identification and search the person for weapons.

The “no-knock” bill permits a policeman, with court approval, to execute a search warrant without advance notice to the occupants of a building if there are grounds to believe that advance notice would permit the destruction of criminal evidence or endanger the policeman’s life. Under former law, a policeman had to knock on the door, identify himself, and state his business. He could forcibly enter if admission were denied.

Both bills had strong support from law enforcement agencies, including district attorneys, police chiefs, sheriffs, and the state police.

Mr. Rockefeller said: “Our policemen, charged with the duty of preventing and detecting crime, can carry out this heavy responsibility only with adequate and clear powers.”

He said a no-notice search warrant could be obtained only after the judge issuing it was “satisfied by proof under oath that notice will endanger the safety of the officer or another person, or that the evidence may be readily destroyed.”

The New York State Bar Association said the bills probably violated the Fourth and 14th Amendments to the Federal Constitution, which guarantee persons against unreasonable searches and seizures and against deprivation of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

Two newly formed Harlem groups will hold a rally Saturday to protest Governor Rockefeller’s signing of the “stop-and-frisk” and “no-knock” bills. The groups are the Ad Hoc Committee for Fair Police Practice, which organized the rally, and the Committee on Police Community Relations, which is supporting it.


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