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Police offers will soon have to disclose why they have stopped someone
March 11, 2002 3:45 AM   Subscribe

Police offers will soon have to disclose why they have stopped someone - I thought this sounded like a reasonably good idea... especially since on more than one occasion I've been pulled over just so they can "check my car over"... until I read this: "Forces will be told to set up panels of community representatives to scrutinise stop and search records and check that ethnic minorities are not being targeted disproportionately.". Can anyone else see where this is going? "Oh, I'm afraid we can't arrest Mr. X, because we've arrested too many [insert random racial group here] this month".
posted by robzster1977 (17 comments total)

 
I'm sure you meant stop instead of arrest. Beware of being labeled a troll by some anal or sensitive individuals.
posted by Mach3avelli at 3:52 AM on March 11, 2002


Apologies :)

I'm not being racist either, it's just that political correctness sometimes goes waaayyy too wrong.
posted by robzster1977 at 4:02 AM on March 11, 2002


It may turn into a beancount of arrests that leads to people not being stopped, but I hope what happens is these "panels of community representatives" will observe the numbers and investigate the whys. There are some communities that are predominantly hispanic or white or black or purple, and in such areas it would make sense if those pulled over are similar in number to the relative population. However there's also places that are mostly one color, and police tend to pull over people in that area of a different color because (even on a subconscious level) they look out of place. That's the sort of behavior which needs to be scrutinized and investigated.

Unfortunately, no matter how you slice it, this is just gonna make it harder for police to do their job. It is in the "job description" of those purposefully breaking the law, to find ways to hide their activities from the law. This added complexity to law enforcement will ultimately create new loopholes for crooks to slip through.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:07 AM on March 11, 2002


Black people are seven times more likely to be stopped and searched than whites, according to Home Office figures.

What we need to know along with this statement is are blacks more likely to be criminals than whites are? Then we can either call the police scumbags or congratulate them for doing their jobs.
posted by Keen at 4:22 AM on March 11, 2002


I'm not being racist either

You need to drive in a black man's shoes for 15 minutes in my neighborhood and see if that changes your attitude. I don't know about the UK, but DWB is very, very real in the US. Unfortunately you can't legislate what's in a policeman's heart no matter where you are in the world.

It sounds like this particular tactic may be doing more harm than good in the short run but if you've got a better idea you should suggest it because it's time.
posted by victors at 4:46 AM on March 11, 2002


I would recommend more than fifteen minutes. I've examined the lives of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rodney King... I'll never truly know. I can try to empathize and sympathize but there's no way to truly understand and any attempt sounds like belittlement to someone actually in those shoes. How can a black person who has been scrutinized fully on his skin color appreciate a white person trying to understand?

A better idea would be welcomed, but I don't see how there is one. I just hope the community representatives focus on learning and not punishment. We need to better understand why racial profiling happens on unconscious levels before true actions are taken.

Say for example, you're a white guy who's a cop in a mostly black neighborhood, and on more than one occasion you've stared down a guy with a gun who happens to be black. You don't know the stats, but you do know what you face every day. Your opinion of the overall picture would be distorted because of what you personally experience.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:07 AM on March 11, 2002


I doubt this would help. So they need a reason. Just do what the campus cops did with me "You were using your brakes too much... is there any reason I smell marijuana?" (not that I knew of, since there wasn't any, but she searched my car anyway. The only fun part was Stefan. "Oh, I work in the Chem labs, that must be the benzine" or something random like that.)
posted by dagnyscott at 5:07 AM on March 11, 2002


You need to drive in a black man's shoes for 15 minutes in my neighborhood and see if that changes your attitude

What attitude? As I said, race does not matter to me... I was brought up to look past that... I was merely stating that I could see people being 'let off', if you like, because of their race.
posted by robzster1977 at 5:45 AM on March 11, 2002


Does this suggest that in the UK before now, the cops didn't have to give a reason for stopping people? Even if there a million bogus 'excessive use of brakes' excuses, living in a place where the IDEA of that kind of required disclosure is fundamental is somehow comforting.

then again, i don't truly understand the details of search & seizure laws in the US. I always presumed that the cops have to give a reason, and that their failure to do so is often cited as a factor in invalidating stops and arrests. Anybody who really knows?
posted by milkman at 6:24 AM on March 11, 2002


Can anyone else see where this is going?

No, but I can sure as hell tell you where current practice has gone. I welcome this change; it can only improve things.
posted by fleener at 6:49 AM on March 11, 2002


You don't know the stats, but you do know what you face every day. Your opinion of the overall picture would be distorted because of what you personally experience.

Or perhaps, the stats may do a poor job of accurately reflecting the policeman's experience
posted by brucec at 7:01 AM on March 11, 2002


I always presumed that the cops have to give a reason, and that their failure to do so is often cited as a factor in invalidating stops and arrests. Anybody who really knows?

They just need to have a reasonable suspicion, a far lower standard than if they went to search your house, in which case they need a warrant. I'm not sure I'd say it is "often" used to invalidate stops. Probably it is "rarely" successfuly used in this manner.
posted by brucec at 7:04 AM on March 11, 2002


I was merely stating that I could see people being 'let off', if you like, because of their race.

How does examining stop and search records for racial bias prevent people who have committed a crime from being arrested due to some racial 'queue' being full, as you implied in your initial post?
posted by Jairus at 7:05 AM on March 11, 2002


I was merely stating that I could see people being 'let off', if you like, because of their race.

On the contrary: scrutinizing the records allows some more informed analysis of whether it's acceptable that blacks are five times more likely to be stopped. If the records check out with legitimate reasons, then that (partly) justifies the way the police use the stop and search power, and should reduce tensions and make them more confident in using it. If not, then something has to change. Seems pretty win/win to me. (Or at least the only harm it could do is to increase red tape).
posted by Gaz at 7:24 AM on March 11, 2002


Actually, I think this is great. The police in my old community have been hassling teenagers to no end. It's gotten to the point where DWY is an offense - if you look anywhere near under the age of 21, you -will- get stopped for no reason.

A lot of parents are justifiably pissed at the police. This kind of community group would help to prevent that and to focus the police on what they should be doing: catching the criminals who are causing the problems, not the rich suburban white teenagers who aren't.
posted by SpecialK at 8:19 AM on March 11, 2002


What attitude?

On sleeping on it I realized how snarky I sounded, sorry, it wasn't my intent, honest. On top of that I probably misunderstood the lean in your posts.

for the record: I live under the yolk of PCness every day and there are few things I detest more. I hate it the worse when the PC attach themselves to an actual worthy cause like DWB. I guess I was hoping to draw a line between being PC and this one issue.

When it comes to balancing the policeman's effectiveness against the basic civil rights of a group (like driving down a street) I'd say (in the US anyway) the scales have been tipped one way for a shamefully long time.

I'm not a constitutional lawyer but my readings of such affairs tells me that search and seizure come down to two words: probable cause (aka "the other PC").

The case were a cop thinks "blacks are more likely to be criminals" and then he sees a black man driving has been ruled outside probable cause.
posted by victors at 11:50 AM on March 11, 2002


victors: it's ok bud, i should have worded my post better too.

What I did mean, is that it's likely to happen that fuss will be kicked up that a certain ethenic group has been stopped more than another one... over here in the UK, political correctness quite often does go waaay too far.

Again, I'm not pointing the finger at racial minorities as criminals... on the contrary, many of the 'shady' characters I know are white. And if it was found that an ethnic minority group was being stopped more often than anyone else for no apparent reason because "they look like criminals", I'd be one of the first to say that it's not on.

Apologies in advance if none of this makes any sense... it's 4:20am here in the UK, and i've been up for nigh on 24 hours (bloody work callouts...)
posted by robzster1977 at 8:21 PM on March 11, 2002


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