I was listening to my local NPR outlet this morning when a particular news story piqued my interest — the ACLU and Kairys Rudovsky Messing & Feinberg had just filed their Third Report to the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania regarding the monitoring of stop and frisk practices. I said to myself: “I need to get a copy of this report right away.”
Which I did. And I read it. And I got furious.
According to the report, the police are
doing an excellent job of determining who the bad guys are, searching them, and finding illegal guns and drugs arresting lots of people for no reason and violating citizen’s rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Here are some highlights.
Let’s talk about stops first.
- In the first and second quarter of 2012, police stopped 1852 pedestrians.
- Of those stops, in only 976 did police have reasonable suspicion to stop the pedestrian (about 53%).
- Police had no reasonable suspicion in 876 stops
- Pedestrian stops are being made without reasonable suspicion in 47% of cases.
How about frisks?
- In the first and second quarter of 2012, police frisked 265 pedestrians.
- Only 97 of these were done with reasonable suspicion.
- 115 of them were done without reasonable suspicion.
- Frisks are being conducted without reasonable suspicion in about 43% of cases!
But they’re stopping all people equally, right? Justice is colorblind!
- African Americans and Latinos make up 76% of the people police decide to stop.
- Overall, 85% of stops are minorities.
- In predominately African American districts, most marijuana possession arrests were of young African American men.
- In predominately white districts, most marijuana possession arrests were of … also young African American men.
- In District 5 (a predominately white district) there were no possession of marijuana arrests.
The police are
aware of this problem, though, and are working to fix it in complete denial and using that new math to come up with significantly different results.
- Police analysts found that, depending on the police division, that between 96 and 100% of stops were legally justified (only 0%-4% without reasonable suspicion).
- They also found that, depending on the police division, that between 98% and 100% of frisks were legally justified (only 0% to 2% without reasonable suspicion).
But Politicians and Law Enforcement say that Stop and Frisk gets weapons and drugs off the streets!
- They are either stupid, in denial, or lying. You pick.
- In Philadelphia, there were 1,852 stops in the first two quarters of 2012.
- Contraband of any kind was recovered in only 29 of these stops. That’s a 1.57% effective rate of recovery.
- Guns were recovered in only 3 of those stops. That’s a 0.16% recovery rate.
completely valid and constitutional reasons excuses for conducting illegal searches and seizures:
- “officer protection.”
- “narcotics investigation.”
- “suspect was in a high crime or high drug” area.
What defense attorney hasn’t and rolled their eyes (internally, at least) after hearing words while an office is testifying ?
For good measure, here’s the text of the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
And the Pennsylvania Constitution has this to say:
Section 8. Security From Searches and Seizures
The people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers and possessions from unreasonable searches and seizures, and no warrant to search any place or seize any person or things shall issue without describing them as nearly as may be, nor without probable case, supported by oath or affirmation subscribed to by the affiant.
If you are stopped by police while on the street:
- Stay calm. Getting agitated is a natural reaction, but it will not help your situation. Keep your hands where police can see them (e.g. out of your pockets).
- Ask “am I free to leave?” If they say “yes”, then say nothing and calmly walk away.
- If they ask “you mind if I take a look around/search you/check your pockets?” say “I do not consent to a search.” If you let them search you, this could hurt you in court if you end up getting arrested.
- Remember that you do NOT have to consent to a search of your belongings, but police may conduct a pat-down of your outer clothing if they suspect that you have a weapon.
- Ask “am I under arrest?” If they say anything but an unequivocal “yes,” walk away.
- Otherwise, stay quiet.
- If you’re arrested, and the police start asking your questions, the only words you should say are “I want to talk with my lawyer.” The police should immediately stop questioning you. If they continue, just answer with “I want to talk with my lawyer.”
The bottom line: stop and frisk is, at best, security theater. At worst, it’s a state intrusion into the lives of law-abiding citizens who get thrown up on a wall by a cadre of officers who rifle through your pockets because you’re black or latino.
It’s most certainly complete bullshit.