Little is known about the New York Police Department’s use of X-ray vans, but the department’s leader said this week that police don’t usually use the technology to see if members of the public have weapons. Police Commissioners Bill Bratton said Tuesday the X-ray devices are used in lawful ways, but did not elaborate on how exactly the devices were used, Newsday reported.

Bratton responded Tuesday to a legal brief the New York Civil Liberties Union wants to file to urge the department to turn over records relating to the X-ray machines, the New York Post reported. Three years ago, the website ProPublica requested records and training materials relating to the machines, which are reported to cost up to $825,000 each.

“They’re not used to scan people for weapons,” Bratton told the Post. “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.”

The Z Backscatter vans are filled with technology similar to the machines used in airports to see under clothing to detect contraband, but the vans themselves look like regular delivery vehicles. The NYCLU wants to know if there are safeguards in place to protect the public from the X-ray radiation, according to WCBS-TV in New York.

“What are the protocols? Are there any health risks to us from the use of these X-ray vans? Are they getting a warrant when they use them?” Donna Lieberman of the NYCLU told WCBS-TV. “So there are lots of unanswered questions.”



After ProPublica requested to see the X-ray technology records, a New York State Supreme Court Judge said the department had to turn over the records, but the NYPD appealed the decision. The NYCLU’s request is urging the appeals court to side with the New York State Supreme Court’s decision.

“I will not talk about anything at all about this — it falls into the range of security and counter-terrorism activity that we engage in,” Bratton said to the Post referencing how the X-ray devices are used.