From the Miami Herald:
Earl Sampson has been stopped and questioned by Miami Gardens police 258 times in four years….
Miami Gardens police have arrested Sampson 62 times for one offense: trespassing.
Almost every citation was issued at the same place: the 207 Quickstop, a convenience store on 207th Street in Miami Gardens.
But Sampson isn’t loitering. He works as a clerk at the Quickstop.
So how can he be trespassing when he works there?
It’s a question the store’s owner, Alex Saleh, 36, has been asking for more than a year as he watched Sampson, his other employees and his customers, day after day, being stopped and frisked by Miami Gardens police. Most of them, like Sampson, are poor and black….
Saleh was so troubled by what he saw that he decided to install video cameras in his store. Not to protect himself from criminals, because he says he has never been robbed. He installed the cameras — 15 of them — he said, to protect him and his customers from police….
The videos show, among other things, cops stopping citizens, questioning them, aggressively searching them and arresting them for trespassing when they have permission to be on the premises; officers conducting searches of Saleh’s business without search warrants or permission; using what appears to be excessive force on subjects who are clearly not resisting arrest and filing inaccurate police reports in connection with the arrests.
If the story checks out, Alex Saleh, should be nominated for an award of some kind. How many Earl Sampsons are out there without a lawyer to defend their rights? Without a supportive employer like Mr. Saleh?
Some officers turn into bad guys themselves. They’ve lost their badges amid allegations of assault, theft, rape, fraud and drug dealing. At least 68 city cops have been charged with crimes since March 2009.
But Officer Philip Nace – the YouTube sensation who has developed an international reputation as the angriest cop in the City of Brotherly Love – is perhaps the first Philly lawman to get benched for what a police spokesman described simply as “idiotic behavior.”
Lt. John Stanford said yesterday that Nace has been pulled off the street amid an expanding Internal Affairs probe sparked by viral videos out of North Philly’s 25th District, where the 46-year-old cop patrolled with an iron fist and a foul mouth.
One of the viral videos:
“He was set on finding something and, you know, my rights were not going to stand in his way,” Brugger told CBS News.
From the New York Times:
The picture painted in court of the New York Police Department’s officers was not pretty.
Ten percent of them were malcontents who worked as little as possible. Unless they are being paid overtime, officers seem to avoid writing summonses. Indeed, some police officers need to be weaned of the idea that they are paid to drive around in their patrol cars, eating doughnuts.
And those sentiments came not from critics of the department, but from police commanders and city lawyers.
The police commander says he saw no wrongdoing in the video. Hmm.
A few questions:
1. What would have happened if the young man’s mother had not arrived so quickly?
2. What would have happened if she had not been a police officer herself?
3. What would happen if these undercover officers tried to swarm on a person who was carrying a firearm? The police often remind us that they must make split-second decisions. True. But note that this tactic gives the citizen only a split second to decide if he’s being attacked by thugs or whether it’s a police stop.
4. The other day a columnist at the Wall Street Journal heaped praise on the stop and frisk tactics of the New York City Police Department. He said the police have an “uncanny” ability to discern who is carrying a gun. He is looking at paper statistics and gets a warped view of what’s actually happening out there. Consider two scenarios. (A) The police swarm on someone. If they find a handgun, they take him downtown–paperwork shows arrest and gun confiscated. (B) How many times do the police swarm on a person, no gun is found, and the police just walk away as above? No paperwork on that (usually). From the paper records, it is as if frightening incidents like this never even happened.
What if they happen a lot? What then?
Professor Michelle Alexander in the New York Times:
Exposing police lying is difficult largely because it is rare for the police to admit their own lies or to acknowledge the lies of other officers. This reluctance derives partly from the code of silence that governs police practice and from the ways in which the system of mass incarceration is structured to reward dishonesty. But it’s also because police officers are human.
Research shows that ordinary human beings lie a lot — multiple times a day — even when there’s no clear benefit to lying. Generally, humans lie about relatively minor things like “I lost your phone number; that’s why I didn’t call” or “No, really, you don’t look fat.” But humans can also be persuaded to lie about far more important matters, especially if the lie will enhance or protect their reputation or standing in a group.
The natural tendency to lie makes quota systems and financial incentives that reward the police for the sheer numbers of people stopped, frisked or arrested especially dangerous. One lie can destroy a life, resulting in the loss of employment, a prison term and relegation to permanent second-class status. The fact that our legal system has become so tolerant of police lying indicates how corrupted our criminal justice system has become by declarations of war, “get tough” mantras, and a seemingly insatiable appetite for locking up and locking out the poorest and darkest among us.
From the New York Times:
The judge excoriated the city for flagrant indifference to the Fourth Amendment. The amendment has been interpreted by the courts to mean that police officers can legally stop and detain a person only when they have a reasonable suspicion that the person is committing, has committed or is about to commit a crime.
The department’s patently illegal strategy, the judge said, encouraged officers to “stop and question first, develop reasonable suspicion later.” The ruling focuses on detentions that occurred as people were entering or leaving one of many residential buildings in the Bronx whose managers had simply asked the department to patrol the area and arrest trespassers. The Trespass Affidavit Program, or TAP, has thus not only led to unjustified detentions but has also placed untold numbers people at risk of detention merely for entering their own homes or visiting friends and relatives. Their experiences, as described in the ruling, makes perfectly clear why the largely minority citizens targeted and victimized by the program come away feeling angry and ill used.
Describing the typical, humiliating sequence of events, the judge wrote: “The police suddenly materialize, stop the person, demand identification, and question the person about where he or she is coming from and what he or she is doing.” She added that “attempts at explanation are met with hostility; especially if the person is a young black man, he is frisked, which often involves an invasive search of his pockets; in some cases the officers then detain the person in a police van,” where he or she is grilled about drugs or weapons. In some cases, the stop escalates into an arrest, the judge noted, with the person fingerprinted and held overnight. Even if the charges are quickly dropped, the arrest can follow the person for years.
Previous coverage here.
From the New York Law Journal:
In sum, while it may be difficult to say where, precisely, to draw the line between constitutional and unconstitutional police encounters, such a line exists, and the NYPD has systematically crossed it when making trespass stops outside TAP buildings in the Bronx,” Scheindlin said. “For those of us who do not fear being stopped as we approach or leave our own homes or those of friends and families, it is difficult to believe that residents of one of our boroughs live under such a threat.
For more background, go here.
By way of background, a “stop” is an involuntary citizen-police encounter—but it is an encounter that has not yet escalated to the point of a full blown arrest.
In other words, the person has not been handcuffed and taken into custody, but neither is he free to walk away. Often in full view of neighbors or passersby, the person may have to “assume the position” by placing his outstretched arms against a wall or the hood of a police car; or even lay down, prostrate, on the sidewalk.
It can be a degrading and humiliating event to endure….
There have been two important developments concerning the stop-and-frisk doctrine. The first concerns the absence of a remedy in the situations where the police violate a person’s constitutional rights. That is, what happens if the cops just whimsically stop someone, frisk his garments, and pepper him with questions for 5-10 minutes?
Mere curiosity as to whether the person might be holding some marijuana is not enough of a valid basis for a frisk, at least in theory.
What’s a poor person, who is totally innocent going to do in situations where the police are just fishing around? If there’s no injury, is it realistic to expect poor residents to go meet with an attorney? Even if that happened, most attorneys would turn the potential client down quickly.
An unjustified detention that lasted only a few minutes? They would likely respond that the case just isn’t worth the time and expense of litigation.
With no practical remedy for innocent persons stopped and frisked, there is not much of a downside for police to skirt the rules. So they have….
Well-to-do Americans do not realize it yet, but their right against unreasonable detentions is being trampled. They are oblivious because it’s been the minorities in the poorer sections of the city who have borne the brunt of expanding police powers.
The stop and frisk policy is a low-visibility type of police misconduct. On paper, in theory, the tactic can comply with the rules laid out by the courts, but those rules are also violated frequently with no consequences for the officers involved.
For more about the stop & frisk tactic and how it has undermined the legal protection against false arrests, see my paper on that subject, “We Own the Night.”