December 15, 2011 11:27AM

Unconstitutional Patrols and Second Class Citizens

It does not happen in the suburbs, but in the city, the police will sometimes just pounce on people who are not doing anything wrong and if you complain or ‘mouth off,’ things can get much worse. Here is an excerpt from a ruling handed down today in DC. 

What is most disturbing about this case is the result: a young man in the community … who was engaged in peaceful activities (mowing the lawn, smoking a cigarette) and who the police knew at the time they stopped him was not doing anything unlawful, is approached by aggressive officers engaged in aggressive unconstitutional patrols, and this young man ends up being punched in the face with such force that he receives a black eye, kicked numerous times in the back, thrown on the ground, sprayed in the eyes with pepper spray, and finally, he receives two convictions on his record for assault on a police officer.… But for this unconstitutional police policy, appellant Crossland would not have suffered a physical attack on his person and would not have had these convictions on his record. Instead, he would have had a rather ordinary day in his community mowing the lawn and smoking a cigarette, a day he probably wouldn’t even have cause to remember, and it is very disturbing that the police in this case are essentially being rewarded for their unconstitutional behavior and aggressive unconstitutional police policy which was the direct cause of a highly volatile situation which led to this young man’s eventual convictions for assaulting them.

The full opinion can be found here [pdf]. One judge says he hopes the police will be admonished for violating the rights of individuals–aggressively confronting people who are not doing anything wrong–and wonders whether he is being naive and unrealistic. Sorry to say that he is being naive and that’s part of the problem. If the young man had gone along with the illegal stop and frisk and the officer left the scene after ten minutes, there would have been no real legal remedy available and that’s why these tactics are used over and over again. 

Author David Shipler spoke about this kinda thing at Cato a few weeks ago. Related Cato work here