Tuesday, April 24, 2018

"A salient truth"

They were standin' on the corner, they didn't mean no harm;
Along came the po-lice, took 'em by the arm;
It was down in Ohio, there was no cause for blame;
The police said "boys, you better tell me your names."

And thus two Whitehall, Ohio city police officers stopped and handcuffed two men because one of the officers found it suspicious that the men were "just standing there."

"At this juncture," wrote S.D. Ohio District Court Judge Algenon Marbley in his order suppressing the fruit of this illegal stop, "the Court is compelled to note a salient truth: [the defendants] are both black."

Why is this a salient truth?

Because "when a white officer approaches a black civilian, racial dynamics might make the civilian feel unusually threatened by the police and . . . race should therefore be relevant in determining whether a reasonable person would feel free to leave a police encounter."

Because "[t]o permit law enforcement officers to detain and search individuals based on their own views of what 'types' of individuals appear, to them, to be 'suspicious' would inevitably and inexorably exacerbate overpolicing of the underprivileged and of communities of color."

Because "[f]or generations, black and brown parents have given their children ‘the talk’—instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger—all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them." 
In case Judge Marbley's message still isn't clear: When it comes to the Fourth Amendment, we need to talk about race.

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