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Unreasonable suspicion

Sep 23, 2008 Unreasonable suspicion

 

Bill of Rights (From public domain.)

What made me become so skeptical of cops? Certainly, plenty of socializers tried to keep me and my school classmates enamored of cops from the earliest age. I played with cop and fireman toys. I watched Dragnet, Adam-12, Hawaii Five-O, Baretta, Columbo, Police Woman, Kojak, and plenty of other entertaining police shows that shined a favorable light on cops. When, at age five, I passed by a man being led away in handcuffs near the bank, a man nearby counseled me that "crime does not pay." Cops spoke to students for assemblies, and convicts only came to the Scared Straight presentation telling us crime does not pay (but apparently this was an effort to get parole release). Fortunately, I missed the D.A.R.E. program.

Then, I saw Al Pacino in 1973’s Serpico, which was based on a true-life New York cop who got shot by his own when he refused to join them in police corruption: being paid off by drug dealers and skimming off the top from seized cash. It all made sense: Cops are mere humans and not superhumans. The buttons proclaiming that my town’s "Fairfield Cops are Tops" were propaganda pieces that should instead have proclaimed "Preserve and Protect the Bill of Rights."

Too many jurors, prosecutors, judges, and members of the public at large unfairly cloak cops in shrouds of honesty that they do not deserve. They are mere humans, and most humans lie, and lie again. Certainly, as one cop told me when I complained to the nearby Whole Foods grocery store about why this store had armed cops when the stores in ritzier neighborhoods do not, he would risk taking a bullet meant for me even if I kept my healthfully skeptical view of cops and all people. But that does not make him any more honest than if he would not take that bullet.

Again and again, judges issue search and arrest warrants; and refuse to suppress stops, searches, seizures, and interviews of defendants, without carefully enough considering whether the cops are telling the truth and whether their information is sufficiently reliable or sketchy. Praised be lawyers Andrew Ferguson of the District of Columbia Public Defender Service and Damien Bernache of the Nassau/Suffolk Law Services Committee for their recent article in the American University Law Review entitled: "The ‘High-Crime Area’ Question: Requiring Verifiable And Quantifiable Evidence For Fourth Amendment Reasonable Suspicion Analysis." The title speaks for itself. Thanks to the American University Law Review for publishing an article with this level of pro-Fourth Amendment teeth. Jon Katz

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