The NYPD’s move to add x-ray vehicles to its counterterrorism efforts has shaken up critics and civil rights groups over possible negative health effects from the military-style devices.
The NYPD’s Z Backscatter Vans use radiation technology to spot explosives and other possible terroristic contraband in vehicles. Little is known about the devices; an investigative journalist was denied police reports, training materials, and health tests related to them three years ago, according to theNew York Post.
ProPublica, the journalist’s employer, subsequently filed suit, demanding the findings from the vans be made public. The NYPD appealed the decision in December 2014.
On Tuesday, the New York Civil Liberties Union revisited the suit during their amicus brief, questioning why findings from usage of the Z Backscatter Vans have not been made public. Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, also asked police commissioner Bill Bratton about the health effects the radiation poses for all involved.
“What are the protocols?” Lieberman said. “Are there any health risks to us from the use of these X-ray vans? Are they getting a warrant when they use them?” she said. “So there are lots of unanswered questions.”
“People should be informed if military-grade X-ray vans are damaging their health with radiation or peering inside their homes or cars,” Lieberman added. “New Yorkers have a right to protect their health, welfare and privacy.”
Bratton insisted the vans are up to standard. They are also used by US Customs and Border Protection.
“They’re not used to scan people for weapons,” Bratton said. “The devices we have, the vehicles if you will, are all used lawfully and if the ACLU and others don’t think that’s the case, we’ll see them in court — where they’ll lose! At this time and the nature of what’s going on in the world, that concern of theirs is unfounded.”
He also said the vans will only be used to fight counterterrorism crimes, not lower level ones. Bratton added he wouldn’t speak any further about the vehicles because of “the range of security” they fall into.
The vans reportedly cost between $729,000 and $825,000.