About . . . . . . Classes . . . . . . Books . . . . . . Vita . . . . . . . Links. . . . . . Blog

by Peter Moskos

May 1, 2015

Taking a break

This will be my last post for close to three weeks. I'm heading out of the country (hiking in Greece).

The late-breaking news is that six BPD officers have been criminally charged. That's a lot. This will be a very tough case for the prosecutor to win. The most serious charges need intent (said a law professor I just on the radio with). Intent beyond negligence or indifference.

The other detail well worth mentioning is that, according to the state's attorney, Gray had not committed a crime. The knife was legal, she said. Hence there was no probable cause for arrest. (Strangely, though, the Supreme Court has ruled that officers are OK as long as they think something is illegal. But I don't know if that applies to something like this. Best I remember that case was something about a traffic (non) violation and a subsequent search.)

So legally, best I understand, the initial chase and stop were legal (reasonable suspicion based on flight from police). But there was no probable cause for arrest because Gray wasn't doing or carrying anything illegal. Fleeing from police gives reasonable suspicion to stop (and a frisk leads to plain-touch with regards to the knife; that plain-touch then gives probable cause to search for said object; and the knife would be legally found). But if the knife isn't a crime... well, you don't have probable cause for arrest. That's minor compared to the more serious charges, especially if you think the knife is illegal, but it certainly does not help the police.

13 comments:

David Woycechowsky said...

Legal fine point: as Stevens dissent in Wardlow points out, SCOTUS has declined to establish a per se rule that running from a police officer is "reasonable suspicion." It may, or may not, amount to reasonable suspicion.

If reasonable suspicion is ever determined in this case (for example, in a civil suit by Freddie's family), then it will be interesting to see whether Freddie had had previous contacts with the officer(s) he ran from.

Also: the police may be "conceding" that the knife is legal in the hope of avoiding an adjudication of the "reasonable suspicion" issue at a criminal trial under the case-by-case analysis standard set forth in Wardlow. People tend to be more likely to find reasonable suspicion when the detainee was guilty of an illegal handgun crime and when the officers managed to not hurt the detainee during the detainment.

Pragmatic Liberaltarian said...

The case you're thinking of is Heien. The Court held that exclusion of evidence was not appropriate when the police stopped a car based on an incorrect, but reasonable, understanding of the law. In that case, the law was quite ambiguous and unsettled at the time of the stop. I wouldn't read that case to apply to police misunderstandings of the law when the law in question is clear.

Anonymous said...

Police officers need our support no matter what. It's their courage that keeps us safe.

Thos Wallace said...

Time to put the puppy to bed. There is no set of facts that will help the reputation of the BPD.

Settle with Billy Murphy for $15 million. Billy get $5 and the family? A lot of money but any liability suit with potential criminal charges is also not going to get any better. Call it blood money, but this is one of the methods of redress in countries without a well developed legal system.

Get the officers out on bail and get them out of sight. After everything cools down, do plea deals if possible. Maybe the van driver. Also, get it done in the winter.

I don't know how it works exactly, but the prosecutor represents the public, and the public are going to pay the damages.

The worst part of this is that it gives the impression that the riots were effective in 'getting justice'.

I hate to say it, but it hastened it at the very least.

What does the future hold? I see a lot more technology and a lot less physical contact. If it's all on film and the person is easy to find, just ambush him with four guys and take him down on POLICE terms. Toss a net over the perp. But if you think about it, chasing someone on foot or in a car is a sign of weakness, not of strength.

Why should any cop have to go to the same corner day after day. In my dystopian fantasy, police could just organize the footage, invite the perps for a little meeting, and threaten them with prosecution if thy are seen again on the corner. If they move it inside ... I would be inclined to let it go. Sound harsh and another blow to privacy, but with cameras, the police are simply going to look awful in 1 out of 1,000. They probably are awful once in a 1000. Or 2000. Or whatever.

My main feeling abut this is that there are very few really egregious police interactions with blacks. Or whites for that matter. With over 300 million people, there are going to be some bad outcomes. Really bad.

As Stalin said, one death is a tragedy, a million a statistic. Any discussion of this will get zero traction. I will finish with the comment with the thought that police will have to adopt corporate approaches to damage control. The first is reducing bad outcomes. Statistical quality control. The cost of defects is getting high enough to pour more resources into this. Take an aggressive, proactive approach to controlling the narrative. Why just give the press carte blanche to haul up Birth of a Nation? Try to establish a 'no fault' option to settlements -- precedents are the GM fiasco and the WTC. And use whatever it takes to get the shit off the front page. What I call the 'corporate' approach may sound cynical and manipulative, but what is going on now? And the loss prevention part -- that is inarguably good.

There is never enough Justice to go around. So to the extent possible, shift everything out of the domain of right and wrong, rights of citizens Vs police, and the judicial system in general ... civil and criminal.

Thos Wallace said...

Time to put the puppy to bed. There is no set of facts that will help the reputation of the BPD.

Settle with Billy Murphy for $15 million. Billy get $5 and the family? A lot of money but any liability suit with potential criminal charges is also not going to get any better. Call it blood money, but this is one of the methods of redress in countries without a well developed legal system.

Get the officers out on bail and get them out of sight. After everything cools down, do plea deals if possible. Maybe the van driver. Also, get it done in the winter.

I don't know how it works exactly, but the prosecutor represents the public, and the public are going to pay the damages.

The worst part of this is that it gives the impression that the riots were effective in 'getting justice'.

I hate to say it, but it hastened it at the very least.

What does the future hold? I see a lot more technology and a lot less physical contact. If it's all on film and the person is easy to find, just ambush him with four guys and take him down on POLICE terms. Toss a net over the perp. But if you think about it, chasing someone on foot or in a car is a sign of weakness, not of strength.

Why should any cop have to go to the same corner day after day. In my dystopian fantasy, police could just organize the footage, invite the perps for a little meeting, and threaten them with prosecution if thy are seen again on the corner. If they move it inside ... I would be inclined to let it go. Sound harsh and another blow to privacy, but with cameras, the police are simply going to look awful in 1 out of 1,000. They probably are awful once in a 1000. Or 2000. Or whatever.

My main feeling abut this is that there are very few really egregious police interactions with blacks. Or whites for that matter. With over 300 million people, there are going to be some bad outcomes. Really bad.

As Stalin said, one death is a tragedy, a million a statistic. Any discussion of this will get zero traction. I will finish with the comment with the thought that police will have to adopt corporate approaches to damage control. The first is reducing bad outcomes. Statistical quality control. The cost of defects is getting high enough to pour more resources into this. Take an aggressive, proactive approach to controlling the narrative. Why just give the press carte blanche to haul up Birth of a Nation? Try to establish a 'no fault' option to settlements -- precedents are the GM fiasco and the WTC. And use whatever it takes to get the shit off the front page. What I call the 'corporate' approach may sound cynical and manipulative, but what is going on now? And the loss prevention part -- that is inarguably good.

There is never enough Justice to go around. So to the extent possible, shift everything out of the domain of right and wrong, rights of citizens Vs police, and the judicial system in general ... civil and criminal.

Suburban White Woman said...

To the person who said police need our support no matter what.

Actually good police need our support as long as they protect and serve.

When they sever spines, they deserve criminal charges and prison sentences, not our support.

This is why mainstream America is terrified of police. Even the good cops seem to support the bully, abusive ones who make their jobs much harder.

I would not call the police under almost any circumstances and I am white and live in a safe suburban neighborhood. It's just not worth the chance, the shoot me. I'll take my chances with the criminals, at least I know what I am up against with them.

Dave- IL said...

"In my dystopian fantasy, police could just organize the footage, invite the perps for a little meeting, and threaten them with prosecution if thy are seen again on the corner."

This is not a new idea. To some extent, this approach is used in communities (like my own) that are involved in the "Don't Shoot" program. The usual suspects are inivited to a meeting with law enforcement and shown surveillance footage of themselves committing felonies. They are then offered assistance with personal problems, but warned that future infractions will result in prosecution.

You can read more about the program in David Kennedy's book, also titled "Don't Shoot." I am still doing research on the ins and outs of the program. My city--Peoria,IL--is reporting a drop in homicides since the implementation, but we'll see how things go long term.

Anonymous said...

Medical mistakes kill 400,000 people a year. The police need to figure out what most doctors are doing to stay out of jail. Not killing Michael Jackson seems to be the only bright line rule with them. If I ever have surgery I am making the surgeon wear a body camera. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the narrow confines of the police vans make it difficult and potentially risky for officers to apply seat belts to unruly (and potentially violent) people.

Handling this as a criminal matter instead of civil matter will have major negative ramifications for the citizens of Baltimore.

On a daily basis, the BPD deals with the dregs.
Now, their morale is shot. They're not going to have the stomach for it.
There will be a significant reduction in police presence in the the hood. The street people will love it; the decent people will suffer.

Anonymous said...

Making eye contact with a cop and then walking, jogging or running away does NOT in any way give the cop "articulable" grounds to believe that a crime is being committed,perioḍ. Hunches and suspicions are not valid reasons to chase, detain and search a citizen.
If leaving the area where a cop is makes RS for a detention, no citizen could choose to decline a " consensual " encounteṛ. Unless a cop has specific and articulable reasons to believe a crime has been committed they should ignore citizens leaving the area, no matter how fasṭ. The cops were fishing for evidence, hoping to find contraband, and illegally tackled and searched the victiṃ.

With police abuses so rampant, especially in the inner cities, is it any wonder people run? Cops are likely to ignore the law and do just what they did to Gray, and this fear of police abuse would make anyone fear an encounter. Dragging a screaming and injured man to a paddy wagon, throwing him in unsecured and ignoring pleas for medical help may be common, but if these brutal cops get some real time in the pen we might just see the rank and file cops adjust their illegal tactics and begin obeying the law....otherwise watch your cities burṅ... justice denied might mean cops targeted for payback, which is a lot worse than simply obeying the rules to begin witḥ. Also, the cops lied and said he had a " switchblade" to try and make the victim look bad, but were proven liarṣ. No suprise there. Cops may think they have the upper hand, but when frustrated people start ambushing cops to teach them some manners it will be bad for alḷ.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous

"several charges — primarily for offenses relating to drug distribution.

March 20, 2015: Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance
March 13, 2015: Malicious destruction of property, second-degree assault
January 20, 2015: Fourth-degree burglary, trespassing
January 14, 2015: Possession of a controlled dangerous substance, possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute. An on and on. His juvenal record is sealed.

These are the Freddie"s 2015 arrests. He has a couple of assault charges over the years. Nothing involving guns. A couple of charges are still pending.

"Gray’s many run-ins with the law made him a familiar face for police officers, literally. Gray at the time of his last arrest could be identified by name simply through video surveillance."

Gray was hangout in front of a public housing unit whose residents are children and mothers. Who also have some rights. I don't know who is listening to them.

This couldn't happen where I live, because someone with 2 or 3 out of his couple dozens of arrests would be locked up for years, if not decades.

Adrian said...

"Why should any cop have to go to the same corner day after day. In my dystopian fantasy, police could just organize the footage, invite the perps for a little meeting, and threaten them with prosecution if thy are seen again on the corner."

The High Point, NC model (with David Kennedy).

Jackie said...

I think it's pretty significant that the Policeone.com blog has closed its comment section to outsiders."Civilians" can't even,er, witness what members say.