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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Tag: 4th Amendment

Radley Balko on the "Rise of the Warrior Cop"

Nickie Phillips

riseo-of-the-warrior-cop-radley-balko-copblock

The Institute for Peace & Justice and the Center for Crime and Popular Culture welcomed Radley Balko to St. Francis College on November 26 to present his findings on the increasing militarization of U.S. police forces, as well as the legal and political implications of invasive drug searches. He is a senior investigative reporter for the Huffington Post, and a former senior editor for Reason magazine. In 2011 the L.A. Press Club named him Journalist of the Year. Peter Kraska, Chair and Professor in  Police and Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University, and expert on the militarization of policing, describes Balko's book the book Rise of the Warrior Copas "A fascinating, highly educational, and deeply disturbing read."

Here's an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal review of the book:

In Rise of the Warrior Cop, Radley Balko chronicles the steady militarization of the police in the U.S. A detailed history of a dangerous trend, Mr. Balko's book tracks police militarization over the past 50 years, a period that not coincidentally corresponds with the rise of SWAT teams. First established in response to the armed riots of the late 1960s, they were originally exclusive to big cities and deployed only against heavily armed and dangerous criminals. Today SWAT teams are nothing special. They've multiplied like mushrooms. Every city has a SWAT team; 80% of towns between 25,000 and 50,000 people do as well. These teams are busy; in 2005 there were between 50,000 and 60,000 SWAT raids in the U.S. The tactics are pretty much what you would expect—breaking down doors, rushing in with military weaponry, tear gas—but the targets aren't. SWAT teams are routinely deployed against illegal poker games, businesses suspected of employing illegal immigrants and barbershops with unlicensed hair stylists. In Prince George's County, Md., alone, SWAT teams were deployed about once a day in 2009, overwhelmingly to serve search or arrest warrants, and half of those warrants were for 'misdemeanors and nonserious felonies.' Much of Mr. Balko's data is approximate, because police departments don't publish data, ad they uniformly oppose any attempts at transparency or oversight. But he has good Maryland data from 2009 on, because after the mayor of Berwyn Heights was mistakenly attacked and terrorized in his home by a SWAT team in 2008, the state passed a law requiring police to report quarterly on their use of SWAT teams: how many times, for what purposes and whether any shots were fired during the raids.

Sociologist Emily Horowitz, author Radley Balko, and criminologist Nickie Phillips

Stop and Frisk Appeal is Anti-Civil Rights

Nickie Phillips

Mayor Bloomberg just doesn't get it

graphic: ACLU

The judgment in Floyd v. City of New York this week was a victory for the countless New Yorkers of color who over the years have been subject to illegal stops and frisks. As Crimcast has previously written, the case was mired in statistics as to the alleged effectiveness of stop and frisk as a police tool.  Judge Sheindlin, however, made clear that statistical arguments were peripheral to the main issue, the constitutionality of the stops. She explained that stop and frisk, as practiced by the NYPD, through a lack of a required, individualized notion of reasonable suspicion -- such as simply being in a designated high crime area-- indirectly generates unconstitutional stops and frisks that people of color are much more likely to experience.  We applaud her for refusing to let a false notion of increasing public safety through stop and frisk (see this report from John Jay College, Center on Race, Crime, and Justice) erode important Constitutional rights.  She has imposed increased oversight over the practice of stop and frisk and a better articulated reporting of the circumstances that factor into individual stops and frisks.

Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg refuses to accept the judgment, arguing that the stop and frisk as practiced is a needed part of the city's crime-fighting arsenal and that the practice does not constitute racial profiling, directly or indirectly.  The city will file an appeal, apparently unwilling to take to heart the lived experience of many of its own citizens of color.

As Prof. Delores Jones-Brown points out in her blog post on The Crime Report:

In this, the 50th year, of the March on Washington, when thousands of Americans joined with African Americans to affirm their rights as full-citizens of the United States, especially their right to freely use public space, it is tremendously disheartening to see that in a city as diverse as New York  with the largest and most respected police force,  these high level public officials fail to yield to overwhelming evidence that a decade-long practice, however  well-intentioned,  has deprived many law-abiding New Yorkers of the very rights that were adamantly fought for a half century ago.

photo (3)

Crimcast senses that a new civil rights era is galvanizing to pave the road ahead.  With the controversy around this and the recent George Zimmerman trial, we see that the forces that would take the civil rights era backwards need constant checking by people who value the principle of equality for all.  Judge Sheindlin takes us forward, the jury in the ZImmerman case and Mayor Bloomberg would take us backwards, but the crowds expected at the anniversary March on Washington event on August 24, 2013, will no doubt show which direction Americans want to go.

Crystallizing the Key Legal Issues Raised by the NSA Metadata Surveillance Program

Nickie Phillips

National_Security_Agency.svg

The revelations about the NSA spying on metadata--which then spiraled into U.K. and French revelations of similarly unsettling secret programs-- has created a lot of media noise and drummed up considerable anxiety.   However, straight talk about its Constitutionality or lack thereof, and the many other legal implications, gets lost.  How does the government's collection of metadata fit into the ever-evolving privacy laws related to Fourth Amendment protections?  How does it relate to the provisions in the Patriot Act?  Dr. Adina Schwartz's recent post on the website of the Center for Cybercrime Studies, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, provides a clear encapsulation of the key issues at stake and their ramifications. Read her expert analysis here.

Being Black is Not a Crime: Rally for NYPD Stop and Frisk Reform

Nickie Phillips

panorama crowd

Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights and City University of New York (CUNY) faculty and students, including John Jay College's Center on Race, Crime and Justice, came together to call for police reform outside Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York where the trial Floyd, et. al. v City of New Yorkfeatured key testimony from criminologist Jeffrey Fagan.  In Floyd, several New Yorkers and CCR are arguing that the city's stop-and-frisk policies include racial profiling and suspicion-less stops that violate constitutional protections.

Organizer and Founding Director of the Center on Race, Crime and Justice Dr. Delores Jones-Brown underscored that black and Latino residents have the same constitutional rights and right to safety as anyone else.  "The commissioner and the mayor may say that these policies are effective, but their own data tell a different story," she said.

Activists held giant PowerPoint slides with NYPD data indicating that gun violence has not decreased as a result of aggressive use of stop and frisk, nor were more guns confiscated or shootings prevented.  In 9 out of 10 NYPD stops, no arrests or summons are given -- and of those stops nearly 90 percent are non-whites.  In 2012, over a half-million blacks and Latinos were stopped.  Black and Latino young men between the ages of 14 and 24 are particularly plagued by unjustified stops, accounting for approximately 42% of stops when they are only 5% of the city's total population.

Several CUNY students spoke about their personal experiences with racial profiling and suspicion-less stops, putting faces to the statistics being debated about in the courtroom.  One white student described an incident in which he should have received a summons for two potential violations, but instead was released politely by police, while a student of color described being the victim of police abuse of the stop and frisk policy while he was doing nothing illegal.  Other activists linked the struggle for racial equality with similar struggles for police justice for LGBTQ people and the poor.

Queens College Professor Harry Levine explained that the sheer number of marijuana arrests in the city are largely the fruit of illegal frisks, saying that "The marijuana arrests are the cracker jack prize of the stop and frisks."

Crimcast sat in on expert witness Fagan's cross-examination in which sweeping questions about the normative methodological and theoretical mainstays of criminal justice were posed.  The city's attorney appeared to want to discredit Fagan's social science because the conclusions to his prior studies point to racially disparate outcomes in stop and frisk police discretion.  Rather than confront the lived reality of individuals who routinely endure suspicion-less stops, today's testimony instead had social science on the stand.  As criminologists we were surprised to learn that the city attorney hoped our field had solved major methodological quandaries of our time in completely packaged and unanimous ways, such as how to handle outlier data or whether population is a legitimate benchmark among others for stop and frisk activities.  Fagan dodged this baiting, and informed her of the true landscape of methodological variation in the field-- and in fact wise minds may take different approaches to monumentally complex datasets.

Crimcast predicts that this trial transcript may be of interest to criminologists regarding the application of their work to major policy issues of the day.  Some may even be excited to learn that academic criminology is relevant.  But we hope Floyd does not forget Floyd.  He and many others encounter the police as obstacles in going about their legitimate daily lives.  The chilling quality of these serious Constitutional violations and personal indignities are not fully captured by the numbers.

Flexing Your Rights on The Good Wife

Nickie Phillips

Flex Your Rights hosts a website that provides information to the public about the protection of civil liberties. For several years, I've used Flex Your Rights' "10 Rules for Dealing with Police" and "Busted!" DVDs as teaching tools for illustrating ways to protect one's constitutional rights during police encounters. They are superb. The videos cover car stops, stop & frisks, and home searches. You can purchase the DVDs here.

This week, Flex Your Rights notes that the season premiere of The Good Wife is inspired by a real-life traffic stop and search (a federal lawsuit regarding the officers' records of past stops is pending).

The video clip of the stop that inspired the show, Breakfast in Collinsville, is posted on YouTube:

10 Rules for Dealing With Police

"The gist: On December 4th 2011, StarTrek fans Terrance Huff and Jon Seaton are stopped illegally after a StarTrek Exhibition for suspected drug transportation in Collinsville, Illinois. Award winning filmmaker Terrance Huff does a breakdown of an illegal traffic stop and subsequent search involving a K9 Officer who has a questionable past."

For more, about Flex Your Rights and The Good Wife, go here.

Popular Culture and the 4th Amendment: Jay-Z's 99 Problems

Nickie Phillips

Great analysis and advice from Caleb Mason on the 4th Amendment. "Jay-Z's 99 Problems, Verse 2: A Close Reading with Fourth Amendment Guidance for Cops and Perps." Saint Louis University Law Journal 56:567.

via Coudal Partners: coudal.com

FORA TV interview with Jay-Z 99 Problems Decoded. Click here.