The Detroit Police Department is training its officers in the controversial stop and frisk tactic used to promote public safety. Under the policy, police may stop a person for certain reasons, and frisk them. Police argue it is ‘proactive policing’ to stop a crime before it can happen. Critics argue it is an illegal search and unconstitutional.
In the government’s quest for more power, Detroit Police Department Assistant Chief, Erik Ewing released the following statement:
Based on reasonable suspicion, the Detroit Police Department is already a stop-and-frisk policing agency. Detroit's population is mostly African American, so it stands to reason that a high number of African Americans will be stopped, based on reasonable suspicion. This is not racial profiling, just officers doing good constitutional police work.
In general, the police must have a reasonable justification to stop someone, and the justification to search someone must cross the threshold of being a danger to one’s self, the public, or the police. The Detroit Police Department’s stance does not appear to blur that line further, but how it is put into practice will be the telling story on if the guidelines for reasonable justification have been relaxed.
As an aside, the NYPD policy of stop and frisk made the reasonable justification requirement almost nil, and was problematic in the targeting of Hispanics and blacks. It was recently ruled unconstitutional. The DPD appears to have addressed the racial profiling issue by linking the rates at which stop and frisk will be used to the city’s demographics.
In general, giving up freedom to buy safety accomplishes neither. However, the case was clarified in the US Supreme Court case Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). In that case, it was ruled that Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures is not violated when a police officer stops a suspect on the street and frisks him or her without probable cause to arrest, if the police officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime and has a reasonable belief that the person "may be armed and presently dangerous." Furthermore, police may perform a quick surface search of the person’s outer clothing for weapons if they have reasonable suspicion that the person stopped is armed. This reasonable suspicion must be based on "specific and articulable facts" and not merely upon an officer's hunch. (from Wikipedia).
In these situations, it is useful to establish that the police are indeed stopping you. A stop is a legal term that generally means the police officer is using his authority to prevent you to leave. If the contact with a police officer is not a stop, the individual is generally free to go, and may decline to answer police questions. (It is, however, generally useful to the public to cooperate with police who may be trying to investigate a serious issue and just need some information.)
It should be noted that Michiganders with a concealed pistol license (CPL) have partially abdicated their rights against a police search. A CPL carrier must immediately disclose to a police officer who has stopped him that he has a concealed pistol. In certain circumstances, a law enforcement officer may take temporary possession of the weapon during interaction with the individual to ensure the safety of the officer and others. The police officer must return the pistol at the end of the stop unless the individual is being charged with a violation of the act or any other law that allows for the weapon to be seized.
It should be every Detroiter’s goal who is subject to a stop and frisk to challenge the officer’s reasonable justification through the court system. By forcing the City of Detroit to hear these cases, address shortcomings in reasonable justification instances, and establish clear boundaries can the policy work fairly. If the courts set the wrong boundaries, it will fall to the legislature to establish the correct boundaries.