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Landmark Racial Profiling Cases Essays

CourtoftheUnitedStatesLandmark Racial Profiling Cases Erika J. Shorter University of Maryland University College CJMS 650 9040 Cole and Smith (2007) define racial profiling as, “the use of race and ethnicity as clues to criminality. ” This term is commonly used to refer to police or other law enforcement officials singling out a person or group of people as “potential suspects” because of their race or ethnicity (p. 98). Terry v. Ohio On October 31, 1963, while on a downtown beat which he had patrolled many times over a period of several years, Cleveland Police Department detective Martin McFadden spotted two men, standing on a street corner at 1276 Euclid Avenue.
Detective McFadden thought that the men, John W. Terry and Richard Chilton were behaving in a suspicious manner. Detective McFadden noticed that the two men walking back and forth and stopping to stare at a particular store window. After each trip back to the window, the men stopped on the corner to talk. This ritual was performed by the men about five or six times apiece. McFadden observed that after one of the trips, they were joined by a third man. After speaking with Terry and Chilton briefly, the man left. Detective McFadden suspected that the men were planning a robbery.
Therefore, he followed them. As a result, he witnessed them rejoin the third man in from of a store a few blocks away (Cole and Smith, 2007, p. 268). Detective McFadden was not wearing a uniform. He identified himself as a police officer and asked the men their names. The men responded with an incomprehensible reply. As a result, McFadden whirled Terry around and patted down his outside clothing. McFadden then felt a handgun in Terry’s overcoat pocket. He took the handgun from Terry’s coat pocket. Then, McFadden patted the other two men down.
He also found a handgun in Chilton’s overcoat. The third man, known only as Katz, was unarmed (Cole and Smith, 2007, p. 268). Terry and Chilton were both charged with carrying concealed weapons. Before the trial began, the defendants brought a motion to suppress the implicating evidence that Detective McFadden seized. The argument of the defendants was that the handguns were not admissible because Detective McFadden found them during an unlawful search. The defendants stated that McFadden did not have a valid Search Warrant to authorize the pat down.
In addition, the defendants claimed that McFadden did not have probable cause to hold them. The court denied their motion to suppress and both defendants were later found guilty. After the Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed the convictions, the defendants appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court (Cole and Smith, 2007, p. 268). The Supreme Court ruled that McFadden acted judiciously during his chance meeting with the defendants. The Supreme Court addressed the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution citing that acknowledging that probable cause is generally needed to influence an arrest and a warrant to conduct a search.
The main issue is whether law enforcement acts reasonably under the circumstances. The Fourth Amendment does not disallow all warrantless searches executed without probable cause, just those that are unreasonable (Cole and Smith, 2007, p. 268). The Court ruled that during situations that can quickly escalate into something dangerous, police may find it difficult or impossible to get a search warrant before deciding to get involved. It is possible to risk injury or harm to bystanders if law enforcement is forced to wait until it has probable cause before getting involved.
The Court added that the Fourth Amendment provides law enforcement with the elasticity to examine, discover, and avert criminal activity. The Court concluded that this elasticity gives police officers to stop people that they suspect of doing criminal activity and hold them for questioning. The Fourth Amendment is not violated if during questioning the police are led to believe that a suspect is armed and dangerous. The police officer may frisk the suspect (Cole and Smith, 2007, p. 268). The Court remarked that McFadden saw the two defendants appearing to be planning a robbery.
The Court felt that McFadden would have been acting negligently if he had ignored the behavior of the defendants. Since Detective McFadden chose to get involved, it was rational behavior to assure that none of the defendants were armed. This was especially so, since the men did not respond clearly when McFadden requested that they identify themselves. After he patted down and frisked the defendants, it was his civic duty to protect himself and society by seizing the weapons that he found. (Cole and Smith, 2007, p. 268). In conclusion, the Court said that no law enforcement officer may lawfully stop and hold omeone for questioning unless the police officer first notices abnormal behavior that sparks a rational suspicion of criminal behavior or activity. The stop may be no longer than necessary to ratify or dismiss the police officer’s suspicion. In addition, it cannot be pointlessly deterring or interfering. During this time, no searches may be done unless the police officer has an unbiased and specific reason for thinking that the suspect is armed and dangerous. The search must be restricted to the suspect’s outer clothing and can be performed for the sole purpose of finding a concealed weapon.
The Court said that the evidence that is found during searches that comply with these limitations is therefore admissible under the Fourth Amendment (Cole and Smith, 2007, p. 268). Terry v Ohio set precedent for a variety of Fourth Amendment cases. These cases range from stop-and-frisks in the street to traffic stops in which pat-down searches could be done on the driver or the passengers. In Michigan v. Long, the Supreme Court ruled that car compartments could be searched under the Fourth Amendment if the law enforcement officer had a well-judged suspicion that the suspect is armed and dangerous.
Therefore, the compartments are regarded as an expansion of the suspect’s body (Cole and Smith, 2007, p. 271). Terry v. Ohio is linked to racial profiling because according to Tracey Maclin (1998), it only gives racist law enforcement officers to use the Fourth Amendment to stop and search minority drivers solely on the basis of race and ethnicity. Maclin claimed that minorities are arbitrarily searched by law enforcement. The author stated that police officers are more uneasy in minority neighborhoods than in neighborhoods in which White persons reside.
Additionally, Maclin related that in 1966, Professors Bayley and Mendelsohn did a survey on the beliefs of police officers in Denver. The surveyors found that police officers approach minorities with caution and expect danger. .The professors also found that the issue of race is undoubtedly a definite inkling in the police officer’s realm. It was also found that police officers generally associate minorities with a high frequency of crime and an overall lack of respect and support for law enforcement (p. 1316).
According to a 2005 study of law enforcement agencies in Texas, the Houston Police Department searched 12 percent of Black drivers and 9 percent of Hispanic driers that its officers stopped. However, only 3. 7 percent of White drivers stopped by the Houston Police Department were searched (Cole and Smith, 2007, pp. 96-97). Daniels et al v City of New York et al / Floyd et al v City of New York et al Two key court cases have confronted the legality of the stop, question, and frisk policing practices in New York City . These cases are ; Daniels, et al. v. The City of New York, filed in 1999, and Floyd, et al. . The City of New York, filed in 2008. In 1999, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a federal class action lawsuit against the City of New York and the New York City Police Department. Daniels, et al. v. The City of New York, alleged the New York Police Department of violating regulations against unreasonable searches and seizures described in the Fourth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution by performing stops with no reasonable suspicion that there was any crime being done. The plaintiffs also claimed that law enforcement officers were pursuing them on the basis of their race and ethnicity.
In addition to an order abolishing the New York Police Department from making inappropriate stop and frisks, the plaintiffs sought a judgment affirming that the practices of the New York Police Department Street Crime Unit were unconstitutional (Jones-Brown, 2010, p. 11). In 1999, the New York Police Department Street Crimes Unit was an exclusive squad of officers who claimed that its purpose was to deter violent crimes in New York City and to take illegal weapons. The officers in the New York Police Department Street Crimes Unit patrolled the streets in New York City at night in civilian clothes and unmarked cars (Jones-Brown, 2010, p. 3). In September 2003, the New York City reached a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs in September, 2003. Under the agreement, the New York Police Department was required to uphold a written anti-racial profiling policy mandatory on all officers that conforms with the U. S. and New York State Constitutions. Additionally, the agreement obliges the New York Police Department to assess officers who participate in stops, along with their superiors, in order to conclude whether their stops are centered on reasonable suspicion and are properly documented (Jones-Brown, 2010, p. 0). In 2008 CCR filed Floyd, et al v. The City of New York in federal court. The plaintiffs claimed that the New York City Police Department has unrelentingly engaged in racial profiling and stopping minority New York City residents without reasonable suspicion despite the settlement terms in Daniels, et al v. The City of New York (Jones-Brown, 2010, p. 22). Dr. Delores Jones-Brown, Director, Center on Race, Crime and Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice did a study on the precincts in the New York Police Department.
The statistics speculated that stops had a tendency to be assembled in a small number of police precincts and that the sizeable bulk of people stopped were either Black or Hispanic. The reasons the police officers listed for stopping people varied, nevertheless “carrying a suspicious object in plain view” and “engaging in a violent crime” were two of the three least frequently documented reasons. According to official records, the most common reason listed reason was “furtive movements” on the part of the person who was stopped. This term is extremely vague and indeterminate.
In addition, the data also showed that Blacks and Hispanics were more likely than Whites to be subject to frisks and to physical force during stops. The Judge issued an Order granting Plaintiffs’ Class Certification Motion on May 16, 2012 (Jones-Brown, 2010, p. 28). Food for Thought The information about police stops in New York City that I have read while researching this case review has taught me a lot. However, the numbers that I have come across have brought about more questions than answers: What does the community think about policing practices?
Have best practices on conducting policing stops been found? Has training on how to properly conduct a stop been mandated? If so, have the number of people who believe that they were improperly stopped decreased? Is there a relationship between public safety and police use of stop and frisk practices? Are there different approaches to public safety in higher-crime neighborhoods? Does any documentation exist on the costs involved in implementing the New York Police Department’s policy on stop and frisk? (This includes patrol processing and case processing)
Have some precincts found a method to perform stop and searches in a way that has reduced crime without generating undesirable racial discrepancies? If so, can this be used as a tool for other precincts and neighborhoods? The answers to these questions and countless others will involve further data, qualitative research and more public opinions and debate Numbers alone cannot describe how people feel when the police stop them, especially if they are not participating in any criminal behavior or practices.
Further research is needed to find the costs of these stops on an individual and city basis in addition to how the public benefits from stop and search policing policies, practices and procedures in New York City. These lawsuits are designed to find the answer to questions about whether these practices are based on the law or if they are an infringement upon specific liberties. References Cole, G. F. , & Smith, C. E. (2007). The American system of criminal justice eleventh edition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education.
Jones-Brown, D. , (2010). Stop, question and frisk policing practices in New York City: A primer. John Jay College of Criminal Justice. pp. 2-33. Lerner, C. S. , (2006). Reasonable suspicion and mere hunches. Vanderbilt Law Review, 59(2), 405-473. Retrieved June 25, 2012, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID1076397311). Maclin, T. , (1998). Terry v Ohio’s fourth amendment legacy: Black men and police discretion. St. John’s Law Review, 72(3/4), pp. 1271-1321. Retrieved June 29, 2012, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 39311866).

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