Random police stops increasing fast

An African American male construction worker trudges up the steps to the front porch of his house in a middle-class neighborhood of New York City; it is dusk and he’s had a hard day on the job at a construction site.  Dressed in work clothes, dog-tired, and with tools in hand he wearily approaches his front door.  As he fumbles with his keys to unlock the door of his house, a man dressed in a police uniform approaches and begins questioning him.   Quickly dismissing his initial thought that this was an Ashton Kutcher “punked” incident, the homeowner realizes he is being interrogated by a real police officer with a real gun ready at his side.

This scenario is not hypothetical.  It happens hundreds if not thousands of times each day in cities and communities across the country; and it is occurring with increasing frequency. Police are randomly stopping more than one million people, mostly minorities, throughout major U.S. cities each year.  Simply walking down the street in certain neighborhoods, or fumbling with your keys at night trying to unlock the door of your own home, can trigger an approach by a police officer, and a series of questions to convince the officer you have a right to be where you are.

In the post-911 environment overshadowed by fear in which we are living, it is not only airline passengers who are being made to feel like criminals and forced to prove to the authorities they are innocent of criminal or terrorist activities.  Average citizens doing nothing but minding their own business in areas they have every right to be, are now considered fair game for snooping police officers looking for someone to detain.

The fact that only a very small percentage of people who are being “randomly” stopped and questioned by police are ever arrested for an actual offense, appears to matter little to many police departments (or to many citizens, who too willingly submit to such actions because it may offer them a sense of “security”). 

Last year, for example, more than half a million people in New York City were stopped and frisked by police, but only six percent were arrested.  Police stops almost doubled in Philadelphia to more than 200,000 between 2007 and 2008.  In Los Angeles also, pedestrian stops have doubled in recent years.  Many police departments will not release data on such pedestrian stops.  In Atlanta, for instance, three phone calls to the police department yielded nothing except responses that the requested data was “unpublished” or “not recorded.”  In fact, it should be recorded, published, and available.  Citizens have a right to know what their police are doing, if and why they are randomly stopping pedestrians, and how many of those detained are ever arrested for something.  

After all, detaining a citizen for no reason, except perhaps to intimidate or to “make sure” a person is in the right place at the right time are constitutionally suspect police actions at best, and perhaps violative of established case law and regulations.

Of course, in a society in which buying cold medicine is deemed sufficiently suspect that every person attempting to do so must provide their name and other identifying personal information to the government, I suppose it shouldn’t surprise us that a large number of people are being arbitrarily stopped and questioned.  But it ought to bother us; and bother us a great deal.

Is there anything not considered a potentially suspicious act nowadays?  A grade school student having a Boy Scout camping utensil in a school cafeteria – that was sufficiently suspect to net the lad a near expulsion from school.  The next thing you know, the police will be questioning five-year old children because they’re riding their bicycles too fast.  Would it surprise you to know that’s already happening?

65 comments Add your comment

Snafu

November 11th, 2009
12:27 pm

Wait one minute, I can’t for one minute believe that people are complaining because Barr brought out this issue of Police ABUSE OF POWER and people are criticizing him for it. This goes to show the ignorance and stupidity in this STATE and this COUNTRY. As long as people allow these uneducated, don’t know the CONSTITUTION, don’t know the LEGALITY police officers to continue then they will continue to operate in and ABUSE in this manner.

When are the PEOPLE going to stop being cowards and stand up. There are more PEOPLE then there are police officers. I will commend an officer for doing his job of protecting citizens but when it comes to illegal acts..no way. When did you give up your CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT?

There will always be some that believe the police can do no wrong and if the police are doing something THEY like they will side with them even though it is wrong. Those who side with the police on the infringement of rights are truly ignorant and stupid. And when it happens to them they want to cry foul. WAKE UP PEOPLE. Its a sad state of affairs when AMERICANS want to be bad as**es across the pond but will not stand up in their own Country!!!

Kick your fanny

November 11th, 2009
12:30 pm

Just a couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were returning a rental car after she had come back from doing State work. She was trailing behind me in a rental vehicle. We turned down a residential street to bypass a construction area up ahead. As we proceeded through this area we approached a stop sign, a ‘T’ intersection; darkness had just fallen. A DOUGLAS COUNTY Sherrif’s vehicle faced me in the opposite direction as I came to a complete stop at my stop sign. I proceeded, he sat. My wife pulls up he still sits and does not move. She waits an extra few seconds. As soon as she proceeds he peels off and busts a U-turn. I am watching this whole thing transpire mind you. He jumps out of his car slams his door and stomps toward my wife in the rental car yelling and screaming. Basically, he was trying to create a hostile situation. He had no idea what he was trying to pull had a witness and that she was with me. So I look out my window back at him and ask what she is being stopped for (I wasn’t about to get out of my car, understanding my Blackness being what it is; I didn’t need any “mistakes” or sudden sightings of weapons. So, he gave us the garbage and I alerted him to the fact in a nice way that he was lying about his trying to turn left and her failure to yield to him and that I saw the whole thing transpire. By the way he would have been turning into a dead end Cul de Sac. So while he was running the plates, license and such I got on the cell phone with her, planning to contact a friend who is prominent Atlanta attorney. Of course after he came back, he suddenly had a change of tune. Maybe he realized after running the checks and the rental agreement had her name with her State Agency on it that he just didn’t have some criminal minded Black folks rolling through this neighborhood. I really wanted to file a complaint, but my wife couldn’t get a car number, because he made sure to reverse his vehicle to go off in the other direction.

Corrupt swine. And yes to some who may read this, the truth WILL hurt. It should.

Snafu

November 11th, 2009
12:46 pm

Cops are nothing but “revenue collectors”. They are some of the most uneducated folks carrying weapons trying to enforce the law. There should be higher standards for those serving in law enforcement, At least a bachelors’ degree with CONSTITUTIONAL LAW!! That won’t happen because we have idiot politrickans who think they are above the law.

The police are nothing but and arm of the IRS!!!

Max

November 11th, 2009
1:03 pm

Lousy cop there sure are a lot of people that have had a lot of bad police experience. I am willing to bet if some of the folks on here drove on a drive along for a week with a cop, their opinions would change. Most people appreciate the police. Let’s face it most of the people you have day to day interaction with are the bottom of society. AND please anyone of you folks who were harassed by the police and your complaint was legitimate I am not talking about you. I would also say again the most police interaction in generated by the public calling the police Don’t drive “dirty” and give the police a reason to pull you over. I could go on and on, but I will stop. I support the police, and of course there are some “rotten apples out there.

Marion

November 11th, 2009
2:21 pm

The only time my home was ever robbed was by Union County Georgia deputies. Dirty cops are everywhere and as we get closer to a Socialist/Communist state the few rights we still have are being taken away daily.

MrLiberty

November 11th, 2009
2:45 pm

The simple solution is to eliminate all government law enforcement officers and go to private security whose job it is to protect individuals and their property by contract. These problems are a direct result of the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the Patriot Act, the prison industrial complex, and the presence of government that is out of control.

Turd Ferguson

November 11th, 2009
3:04 pm

Another one.

About 6 years ago my brother-in-laws truck was stolen during the night from their driveway. Cops came out made a report. Sis filed the report with the Insurance Company and requested payment. In turn the Insurance Company came out to “visit”. Long story short a few days later some County detectives showed up and accused my Sis and Brother-in-law of setting up the theft as a scam.

Told Sis to tell the cops to F-off and get an attorney. Which she promptly did (dont know about the F-off, however, an attorney was retained). Sis eventually received reimbursement from the Insurance company.

Funny thing was that up until that point she trusted the po-po implicitly and would badger me for not doing same. Oh “they risk their lives” and the usual mantra. However she sees things quite differently now and agrees that The COPS are NEVER to be trusted.

I teach this to my son, nieces, nephews and as many persons as possible.

NEVER, EVER TRUST THE POLICE OR ANY LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER, SOLICITOR, ATTORNEY GENERAL ETC. THEY ARE ALL CROOKED.

The Blitz

November 11th, 2009
3:37 pm

@Cop. Good points. It’s clear that many officers take their job seriously. What can we do to bring the two perspectives together?

joe matarotz

November 11th, 2009
3:48 pm

This scenario is not hypothetical. It happens hundreds if not thousands of times each day in that vacuous wasteland known as Bobolink Barr’s mind. For one thing, beat cops in New York went out in the seventies. For another, the yokels in Mayberry might go around frisking the newcomers, but in a real department, in a real city, cops will not put themselves at risk because they don’t like somebody’s looks.
Bobo, you’ve been watching too much CSI on tv. Put down the bottle, turn off the tube and try to get some sleep. You’ll feel better in the morning.

jt

November 11th, 2009
6:52 pm

Hey Turd-

It ain’t the same next door without you.

I’ll do ya a solid in the A.M.

what me worry

November 11th, 2009
8:23 pm

Joe- what about 500,000 illegal searches or 200,000 unwarrented (in more then one way) stops is made up. NYC police patrol in cars instead of on their feet now so what. They don’t put themselves in harms way for nothing, really? Tell that to Cathrine Jonhson’s family. The antedotal incidents add right up with the real numbers. CSI has nothing to do with this reality.

So taxes are down and fine revenue is up. Rights be damned, you don’t like it I got black boots a brown shirt and a taser gun so get in line and get your wallet out.

Turd Ferguson

November 12th, 2009
8:04 am

jt…look for “Boogers for the Children Fund.” There you will find the Turd!

joe

December 3rd, 2009
11:30 pm

im simply amazed at those who say and think “im not doing anything wrong, so it doesn’t matter if the government listens, or if im stopped”? its hard to simply type here without quivering with anger over those types of idiots. im not doing anything wrong, but in no way shape or form is it ok to harrass, yes, harrass individuals based on the whim of overzealous government employees looking for a promotion. ive been pulled over and asked what im doing and where i going…its none of your business!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i do not believe that armed conflict is the way to go in almost any circumstance, but when will we, as americans, grow a backbone and at the very least start filing lawsuits every single time these travesties happen. there is a huge difference between what is right and what is legal, and this is a perfect example. somewhere along the line the government decided it would start telling us what to do, as opposed to the ideals of our founders, which is THE PEOPLE tell the government what to do. if every single person made a big deal and exhibited it with civil disobedience, guess what? things would change, by protest or at the barrel of a gun. the constitution is not debatable. “GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH”!!!

M. Clarke

December 8th, 2009
8:22 pm

My wife was stopped at the Atlanta Airport by the APD, she was not even pulled over yet, in the loading area outside of baggage claim while the person she was picking up was right there on the curb waiting for her to stop. The officer ran to her vehicle and told her she can not stop anywhere in that area (as other were doing that and signs stating that you could). The officer did not even give her time to reply when the officer put her hand on her gun backed up in a stance position and told her to get moving.
We went to court ready to confront this officer on her behavior in front of the judge, The officer did not show and the judge did not waste time dismissing the case, My wife still told her side and all the judge could say was sorry, next!

M. Clarke

December 8th, 2009
8:29 pm

Here is another one that bugs me. I know you may not take on any effort into reading a case such as this one and a little off topic but I fell a little related, however I would like to make a notice of a practice that is getting all too common concerning the behavior of law enforcement agencies and many district attorneys I feel has lost the connection to where their duties as public servants should be with the public they are suppose to serve.

Newton County Georgia (Where I live) has had their issues with police Brutality before, The NAACP got involved in a few cases in 2006 in Newton County Georgia. I have been noticing an increase of issues with law enforcement taking advantage and making a deliberate effort to impose on the poorer and more unfortunate people of the County by harassment, threats, etc.

One example, A case involving a then 18 year old student (Zachary), was arrested on, Feb. 19 for Obstruction or hindering law officer, possession of marijuana less than one ounce.

Beyond what the official story that originally came from the sheriffs department the real story is that Zachary was asleep at a friends house on the couch, sheriff deputies broke down the door and raided the house with masks on, no identification and no announcement of who they were, Zachary stumbled off the couch thinking they were getting robbed and not knowing what was happening in a sleepy daze when one officer punch Zachary in the chest with the but of a shotgun knocking him down. They also arrested the resident of the home who was charge with dealing. Zachary was caught with less than an once of marijuana on him. Officers then wanted Zachary to call several of his friends to come over to buy from him so they could arrest them as well, Zachary said he does not and would not deal although he did start using and wanted to talk to an attorney before he discussed anything further with the officers. The officers then started threatening Zachary that he was not going to get to talk to an attorney and if he did not do as they wanted they would make up other charges on him. Zachary refused and they then also charged him with obstruction and/or resisting arrest.

Zachary was awarded a public defender, however nothing has been done with his case and the public defenders office will not do anything but present the required paperwork/pleas. The District Attorney refuses to drop these other made up charges and wants to make an example of him.

I know Zachary, is is not violent at all and would never resist anyone. He is a very mild and mannered Boy and very polite. I am a business professional making well over six figure income and hopefully very respected member of my community so when I tell you this story I am hopefully does not fall on deaf eyes.

this is one story I know of personally, but is at the top of my frustration level as this kind of thing has been going on too long know with many police agencies and district attorneys across the Country. Something needs to be done to increase awareness to the abuses in our legal system from those we put in charge. We need this type of lock anyone up that does not play well attitude done away with! We need more education, programs to help those who make a mistake but are not criminals, real criminals belong in jail. People make honest mistakes, some are just down in their lives and make a simple mistake, not hurting anyone but themselves but are labeled criminals, may as well be a murderer or a jay walker, not much difference in the eyes of our legal system today.

We have to do something before this country becomes that which many people before us have fought and lost their lives fighting for and protecting us against. The tyranny and persecution that our ancestors fought for all of us to have our independence, freedoms, liberties and justice. we need laws, but those that guarantee to keep the peace and protect us in whole from those that would inflict harm, not from ourselves when the jeopardy of our own freedoms are much at stake.

I want to make an issue of this one event to raise concern to it and others as well. I want to get this noticed somehow, have people raise concerns as may impact their lives one day if they ever do something that is harmless but can destroy their lives for a long time to a degree that the punishment for will overwhelmingly outweigh the mistake.

Too many in our so called justice system has been overtaken by the greed of power that affords their position, abusing this power at an all time high. Corruption, bribes and payoffs are still rampant in the Georgia judicial system as I have witnessed several times with other cases in my community.

I am tired, Tired of all this mess, We need to do something before we become the new communist culture we have fought for decades to eliminate in the rest of the world.