MA Supreme Court: Yeah, It’s Sometimes Okay for Black Males to Run from the Cops

It’s never a good idea to disobey the orders of a police officer. Nothing good ever comes from it. It’s also never a good idea to run from the cops. That never ends well, either.

Unless you’re a victim of “systemic racism,” that is.

And if you’re a black male, chances are pretty good that you are a victim. According to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, anyway — which ruled on Tuesday that black males may have a legitimate reason to flee police officers.

As reported by The Daily Caller, the state’s high court found that systemic racism in the Boston Police Department may be taken into consideration as cause for a suspect’s decision to flee the police during a “terry stop.”

From the Cornell University Law School website:

A terry stop is another name for stop and frisk; the name was generated from the U.S Supreme Court case Terry v. Ohio. When a police officer has a reasonable suspicion that an individual is armed, engaged or about to be engaged, in criminal conduct, the officer may briefly stop and detain an individual for a pat-down search of outer clothing.

In a traffic stop setting, the Terry condition of a lawful investigatory stop is met whenever it is lawful for the police to detain an automobile and its occupants pending inquiry into a vehicular violation. The police do not need to believe that any occupant of the vehicle is involved in criminal activity.

The court handed down its decision in the case of Jimmy Warren. Officers investigating a robbery in 2011 conducted a search of the neighborhood and detained Warren and a companion. Both men — who were wearing hoodies — fled. Warren was later arrested.

Image Credit: Stan Honda/Getty Images
Image Credit: Stan Honda/Getty Images

In its decision, the court wrote, in part:

We do not eliminate flight as a factor in the reasonable suspicion analysis whenever a black male is the subject of an investigatory stop. However, in such circumstances, flight is not necessarily probative of a suspect’s state of mind or consciousness of guilt.

Rather, the finding that black males in Boston are disproportionately and repeatedly targeted for FIO encounters suggests a reason for flight totally unrelated to consciousness of guilt.

Such an individual, when approached by the police, might just as easily be motivated by the desire to avoid the recurring indignity of being racially profiled as by the desire to hide criminal activity.

Given this reality for black males in the city of Boston, a judge should, in appropriate cases, consider the report’s findings in weighing flight as a factor in the reasonable suspicion calculus.

So what does this decision portend for Boston? Is it possible that some black males will use the ruling as a ‘legitimate’ excuse to run from the police?

Ruling or no ruling, it’s never a good idea to run from the cops.

What do you think?

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