The Reasonable Fear Black Americans Have Of the Police

(Reuters) – Judge Robin Rosenbaum of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made an unusual plea to the U.S. Supreme Court last week, in a striking opinion on race bias and police harassment.The ruling cites legal research concluding that Black Americans have a reasonable fear of law enforcement and are less likely to actually exercise their Constitutional rights against unreasonable police searches and seizure.That’s “why even a Black United States Senator and a Black former president of the United States acknowledge the same shared experience as Black citizens from all other walks of life,” Rosenbaum writes, citing Barack Obama and Republican Senator Tim Scott’s own fearful stories of being racially profiled.The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.In 1968, the Supreme Court defined stops, or seizures, as when an officer has “restrained the liberty” of a civilian by “physical force or show of authority.”Courts determine whether someone was truly restrained by analyzing whether a hypothetical “reasonable person” would feel free to leave or otherwise end the police encounter. And that’s where things get tricky.The 11th Circuit’s unanimous ruling in U.S. v. Knights, in which Rosenbaum wrote a separate opinion, held that Anthony Knights’ Fourth Amendment rights weren’t violated because he essentially consented to being investigated when he acquiesced to officers’ actions and complied with their requests during an encounter with the Tampa Police Department.Rosenbaum wrote that the Supreme Court’s interpretations set up a “Russian Roulette” game between civilians and cops — especially when the civilian is a Black person.Civilians have complete responsibility for determining whether a cop actually means to detain them, and an incorrect guess carries great risk to the citizen (and officers, sometimes), Rosenbaum explained.She said the test also “disregards the actual intentions of officers,” which allows courts to dismiss cases in which someone was factually racially profiled if the judge concludes a “reasonable” person would have felt free to walk away from the unlawful stop.”The concurrence asks the Supreme Court, in almost shockingly direct terms, to revisit” current precedent, Seth Stoughton, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, told me.for the rest of the article

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