Stop and Frisk worked its way into the recent debate between two presidential candidates, neither of whom, it seems, totally possessed a full understanding of the concept. One candidate said the practice was unconstitutional with the other claiming it is indeed allowed per U.S. Constitution. So who was right?
Well, let’s first learn a bit about Stop and Frisk. Here’s how it all began, and it’s nothing new, not by any means.
In the mid 1960’s, when I was still not quite a teenager (yes, this law has been on the books for a long, long time), a Cleveland, Ohio detective named McFadden saw two men, strangers to the area, walking back and forth in front of a store. On each pass the men stopped to look into the store window. McFadden watched the men while they made a dozen or so trips past the storefront. After each trip by the business the two men stopped at the street corner to chat for a minute or two. Soon, a third man met the two men at the corner.
Detective McFadden, being quite the observant and proactive officer, had seen enough to send his “cop radar” into overdrive. He was certain the men were “casing” the place, waiting for just the right moment to rob the store owner. So McFadden approached the three men at the corner, identified himself as a police officer, and then asked for their names. Someone mumbled something but no names were offered. Sensing things could quickly go downhill, McFadden grabbed and spun one of the mumblers around (John W. Terry) and patted the outside of his clothing, feeling a pistol in the man’s coat pocket.
Unable to retrieve the pistol on the street while keeping an eye on all three potential robbers, the detective ordered the men inside the store where he had them face the wall with their hands in the air. McFadden retrieved the pistol from the first suspect’s coat and then patted the clothing of the the other two men. During the searches McFadden located a second pistol. As a result, the three men were detained and taken to the police station. The two men with the guns were charged with possession of a concealed weapon.
On appeal, Terry argued that the officer had violated their constitutional rights according to the 4th amendment (unlawful search and seizure). However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the officer, stating that his search was the minimum action required to see if the men were armed, a necessary tactic to safeguard his safety and the safety of others. And, that the suspects were indeed acting in a manner consistent with the probability of robbing the store owner.
Basically, the Court did not change or add laws to the books. Instead, they upheld that whenever possible and practicable, a police officer must obtain a warrant to conduct a search and seizure. However, they ruled, an exception must be made when “swift action” is required based on the observations of an officer.
Detective McFadden’s stop and frisk tactic has since been known as a Terry Stop. It’s a proactive tactic that prevents some crime before it happens, and it helps reduce the numbers of illegal weapons often carried by criminals. Without Stop and Frisk, bad guys have no fear of being caught carrying a gun.
The Terry Stop According to the Supreme Court ruling Terry v. Ohio
A Terry stop is defined as a brief, temporary involuntary detention of a person suspected of being involved in criminal activity for the purpose of investigating the potential criminal violation.
In order to lawfully conduct a Terry stop, a law enforcement officer must have “reasonable suspicion,” which has been defined as “articulable facts (articulable means able to explain in words) that would lead a reasonable officer to conclude that criminal activity is afoot—more than an unsupported hunch but less than probable cause and even less than a preponderance of the evidence.
A police officer may in appropriate circumstances and in an appropriate manner approach a person for the purpose of investigating possible criminal behavior even though there is no probable cause to make an arrest. Also known as the Common Law Right of Inquiry, this section of existing law permits an officer or agent to engage any citizen in a purely voluntary conversation (i.e. “May I speak with you a moment? Do you need any help? How long have you been here?”). In these cases, a citizen must be free to terminate the conversation at any time and go his or her way with no restrictions. This, however, is not a Terry Stop where an officer would conduct a pat-down of the person(s). Remember, this is a voluntary action on the part of the citizen. Terry Stops are not voluntary. In fact, Terry Stops are brief periods of actual detention that may include handcuffing the detained subject for the safety of the officer and others.
*The preceding three paragraphs are excerpted, with some paraphrasing, from FLETC training material. FLETC is the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers.
Based on Terry v. Ohio, what are officers permitted to do regarding pat-down searches?
Officers may, even without sufficient cause for arrest, briefly detain someone if…
– the officer identifies him/herself as a police officer (either by the uniform and badge, or verbally) and asks reasonable questions regarding the suspect’s current conduct.
– the officer has knowledge of facts that lead them to believe the suspect is involved in some sort of illegal activity.
– the person they’ve stopped does not immediately justify his actions in a manner that satisfies the officer’s suspicions.
Officer’s may conduct a pat-down search during a Terry Stop if they have a reasonable suspicion, based on personal knowledge of facts, that the person is armed.
The Terry Stop is a search for weapons.
Officers may not, however, go out on “fishing expeditions” under the guise of the Terry Stop. There must be facts supporting their reasons for a “frisk.”
By the way, a pat-down search is exactly as it sounds. Officers may only “pat” the outer surfaces of clothing. They may not reach into a person’s pockets unless they feel a weapon.
There is an exception to the rule, however, and that’s when an officer who has sufficient training and first-hand knowledge of narcotics packaging, “feels” what he/she suspects is a packet of drugs. The officer may then reach into the pocket to retrieve the packet. To do so, the officer must be able to testify under oath, and verify, that he/she has the sufficient experience and training that would give them the knowledge needed to identify narcotics packaging by feel. An example would be an officer who worked undercover or on a narcotics task force.
Okay, with that out of the way it’s time to visit New York City and the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy. Citizens there raised a ruckus because they didn’t believe the department’s policy met the standard of Terry v. Ohio, where an immediate action is required by the officer to protect himself or the safety of others. Nor did officers (according to citizen complaints) conduct those pat-down searches based on reasonable suspicion that a crime was about to take place. In other words, they felt that officers merely stopped people at random and when they did they searched those people, suspicion of criminal activity or not. And doing so is a direct violation of their constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Were the citizens complaints justified?
Many said NYPD officers simply stopped people of color merely because they were indeed people of color who just happen to be walking along the street, especially in areas where crime rates were higher than the rates in other areas.
Walking on a sidewalk in a high crime area is not in itself cause to warrant a Terry Stop/Stop and Frisk.
Manhattan Federal Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy of searching anyone and everyone whenever they felt like it is unconstitutional, particularly when it comes to black and Hispanic males.
Her ruling, though, does not mean that NYPD officers cannot conduct Terry Stops. What it does mean is that officers must follow the law to the letter and not detain and pat-down people without just reasonable suspicion. A person’s race, by the way, is not just cause. Basically, the judge ordered the NYPD to follow the already-established law that specifically spells out what officers may or may not do with regard to investigative detentions, AKA Stop and Frisk.
Honestly, I don’t see the problem. If an officer’s assignment is to patrol a high crime area of the city, then it should be no problem to spot people who’re engaging in suspicious activity—drug dealers, robbers, rapists, car thieves, etc. Those are the people, the folks involved in some sort of criminal activity, who warrant being stopped and frisked, if they exhibit signs of criminal activity. Not mom and pop and baby brother who’re on their way to church, school, or the grocery store. And certainly it is not permissible or even ethical to stop someone for a pat-down merely because their skin is a certain color.
NO, police officers should not target anyone based on the color of their skin. To do so is very wrong and that’s why Judge Scheindlin stepped in with her ruling, to prevent a practice of targeting people of color simply because they’re people of color.
Remember, though, Stop and Frisk/Terry Stops are still absolutely legal and constitutional, and they’re done each and every day all across the country. These stops are an essential part of both proactive and reactive policing, and they save lives.
I didn’t watch the presidential debate so I didn’t hear the comments regarding Stop and Frisk, but to be perfectly clear … Stop and Frisk/Terry Stops are absolutely and without even a smidgeon of a doubt, legal and constitutional. But officers must follow the law when utilizing those stops/investigative detentions.
Did the two presidential candidates come close to getting this right? I don’t know because, as I said, I didn’t watch and I certainly do not believe much of what I see or hear in today’s media. What I do know is that the leader of this country needs a strong, unbiased, unopinionated understanding as to how this stuff works in real life. Otherwise, they might make the mistake of thinking police, when doing their jobs properly, are doing something wrong when they’re actually doing their jobs correctly, smartly, and as allowed by the law and the constitution. So yes, the president of the United States as well as potential presidents of the U.S., should have an understanding of policing, and that understanding needs to be based on fact, not emotion or to help push an agenda.
I guarantee that politicians will want the officers charged with protecting them to be proactive and pat-down someone for weapons if that someone looks as if they may be prepared to harm them. Shouldn’t we all have the right to feel just as safe? Wait, we do have that right, and it was reinforced by the Supreme Court when they affirmed Terry v. Ohio nearly 50 years ago.
Stop and Frisks are absolutely legal and they’re absolutely constitutional. This, as current law states, is not debatable.
Stop and frisk prevents many criminals from carrying out their illegal activities. At the very least, the practice helps remove illegal guns from the hands of those who’re likely to injure or kill others.
So why tie the hands of officers …
The very men and women who could otherwise prevent you from facing this the next time you and your family visit your local mall …
*Please do not turn this article into a political discussion. It is meant as a learning tool about Stop and Frisk. Nothing more.
Searching someone’s home for evidence of a crime is no picnic. Not even close. Well, there is a chance you’ll encounter a host of warm and fuzzy creatures of various types, similar to those you’d expect to see in the great outdoors or in cages marked KEEP AWAY: DANGER TO HUMANS!!!
And, you might find yourself wishing you were outside enjoying fresh air instead of the thick funk that sometimes lingers in and around the interior of the places some people call home sweet home.
For example, during the executions of search warrants and looking for bad guys who might’ve been hiding out beneath someone’s bed, I’ve discovered:
While searching a bedroom dresser drawer for stolen jewelry I found a pair of dirty underwear wedged in a back corner. When I say dirty, I mean the wearer had not made it to the bathroom in time to … well, you know. So they simply removed the soiled panties along with their contents and shoved them in with the clean clothes where they’d remained until I discovered them.
I opened a closet door and thought I heard the sound of raindrops hitting a tin roof. I pointed my flashlight up toward the ceiling and saw thousands of roaches dropping from the ceiling to the shelves and floor below. By that time my clothing was covered with them. I could not get out of there fast enough.
Let’s just say it’s never a good idea to lift the cover from any five-gallon bucket found inside a house with no running water. It’s the “bathroom.”
Yes, those dozens upon dozens of marks in the grease on top of the stove and inside the frying pan were indeed the footprints of mice/rats. And those thousands of tiny black things scattered about were not pieces of pepper.
Mice and roaches crawling across the flesh of babies lying on the floor, in cribs, on mattresses, etc.
A dead woman perched in a recliner. She’d been dead for several days and the family simply left her sitting there. And, they’d been watching TV and eating meals with the dearly departed grandma not more than ten feet away.
A small dog who wanted to play and would not take no for an answer. So between searching closets and dresser drawers I was forced to play fetch with mini-Rover. It was either that or listen to nonstop barking and a constant tugging on the cuff of my pant leg. If I ignored the little pooch for too long it grabbed a shoestring and backed away until my laces became untied.
A small kid who called me daddy, over and over again. I promise, I’d never met his mom nor had I ever been to the house before. But the lad was equally as insistent as the little dog who wanted to play fetch. He did not untie my shoes, though.
A toilet tank is a favorite hiding spot for evidence, so they were one of the first places I looked. One house, though, almost broke me of that habit because the bowl was so “full” the residents of that charming abode had resorted to using the floor to do their business. I’ve walked through cow pastures that were less booby-trapped.
Speaking of restrooms, there was one where the homeowner kept a mini-fridge on the floor beside the toilet. It was stocked with soft drinks, beer, and assorted snacks. A stack of magazines and books occupied the space on top. The man told me he spent a lot of time in there.
A 21-foot python curled up in the bathtub of a mobile home. I almost wet my pants when I pulled back the shower curtain.
A really nice and well-cared-for pot plant decorated as a Christmas tree. It was beautiful. Even had a train running in circles around the base. Presents for the kids, too.
The home had no heat so the residents burned open fires in the living room inside a metal washtub. No chimney. No fireplace. Just the tub and stack of firewood.
A bunch of young kids, all under the age of 9, who’d learned to cook and care for themselves because their parents left them alone approximately six weeks prior to a neighbor calling us to check on the children.
The house with the carcasses of dozens of dead animals throughout the place—dogs, cats, iguanas, rats, a couple of snakes (not sure if they’d been pets or were there to feed on the weakened animals), and what appeared to be a raccoon or opossum. The mummified and/or skeletal remains were just there, willy-nilly. On the floor, atop a twin bed, in a chair, etc. Bizarre. Really bizarre. And the person who lived there simply stepped around them when leading us through the house.
An entire room packed from wall to wall and floor to ceiling with unopened packages of toilet tissue and paper towels.
A full-size Harley motorcycle in an upstairs bedroom.
A naked man hiding in a closet. He didn’t live there and the woman who did claimed to not know him. Her husband seemed as surprised as I was to see the guy step from behind the dresses and pants suits.
A human hand in the freezer.
Pot plants growing all around the house, pruned like shrubbery.
A room set up like a doctor’s office. The woman who lived there performed minor procedures such as Botox injections, removal of varicose veins, etc. By trade she worked in a doctor’s office as a medical assistant. She stole supplies from her workplace and used her “vast” knowledge of medicine to cure the sick from the comfort of her own home. She also performed minor surgery on animals.
A root doctor who assembled a variety of concoctions to ward off the evils of life. We found the 4′-11″ woman boiling chicken feet and small human bones together in a large stew pot. The human ingredients were stolen from local cemetery and a funeral home.
Two men having sex in a bedroom (didn’t want to stop even after we’d opened the door) while the wife and children of one of the men watched TV in the family room. The family dog gave us the “please get me out of here” look the moment we first stepped inside.
A very old and very naked woman seated in a wingback chair while eating ice cream and watching Jerry Springer. The rest of the family carried on like naked grandma was an everyday thing. I suppose it was.
Once, I served a search warrant for drugs and actually found drugs and nothing more. Just gobs of drugs. No odd people. No soiled panties. No one was naked. And no roaches. It was weird. Really weird.
Five rounds. Five pulls of the trigger on my SIG Sauer, the pistol given to me the previous Christmas. That, the firing of those five rounds, was all it took to forever change my life.
The SIG was gifted to me by my wife, Denene, who, by the way, has never been a real fan of guns. However, she gave me the weapon because the 9mm issued to me by my department was in such a state of disrepair that we weren’t sure if I could depend on it to save my life if called upon to do so. Something inside rattled and the barrel was sort of loose. I managed to qualify with it each year, still …
The day I killed the guy started out like all the others back then. Sure, I was in a rut. I suppose most people are when they become comfortable with their lives. Wake up the same time each morning, feet on the floor, the usual bathroom rituals—toothbrushing, showering, shave, a minute or two with the blow dryer, dress, etc.
My routine also included tying a tie, slipping the SIG and its pancake holster through my belt loops, clipping a gold badge to my belt, and looping a pair of handcuffs over the rear waistband and belt. Next came my jacket, grab a Pop Tart (brown sugar and cinnamon) and a bottle of juice, pull my portable radio from the charger on the kitchen counter, and head out to my unmarked police car that I’d parked in the same spot, day-in and day-out. And so it went, every single day of my life.
No vest. I was a detective who rarely found myself in dangerous situations with bullets zipping by my head. So no vest.
An hour later, however, I was involved in a deadly shootout (remember, no vest) where glass was exploding from the windows of police cars, bullets ricocheted from nearby concrete pavement, sending hot bits of lead and copper into tires, fenders, and doors of parked vehicles.
The man crouching behind his car was hellbent on killing cops and simply would not stop shooting. POW! POW! BANG! BANG! POW! POP! BANG! RAT-a-TAT-TAT, and BANG, POP, POW! Over and over again, and again.
So the moment I had a clear shot I took it, hitting the bad guy in the side of the head just below his left cheek bone.
The SIG did its job. I don’t know if it rattled or if its barrel was tight. My best guess is that the pistol, the SIG that fit my hand like a glove, did exactly as it was supposed to. It sent a round directly to the spot where I’d aimed it. Just like at the range. Not a fraction of an inch off in either direction.
But the shooter continued to shoot, sending even more bullets zinging and zipping by, plucking leaves from trees, plowing tiny trenches in the dirt near my feet, and sending looky-loos running for deeper cover. I had nowhere better to hide than my current spot, behind a tree that was barely larger than one of my legs. The bad guy was grinning like, as some country folk have been known to say, a mule eating briars.
My 9mm round punctured the man’s head sending a thin trail of blood down the side of his face like a red raindrop sliding down a pane of glass. But he continued his effort to kill me by turning to face me to fire even more rounds.
POW! BANG! POP! BANG!
More dirt and grass and leaves and ricochets. More sounds of bullets hitting metal and glass.
I fired again. This time placing a bullet nearly dead center of his chest. Center mass. Center mass. Center mass. Stop the threat. Stop the threat.
He went down.
There were no sounds. No pops or bangs or pows.
No birds chirping. No car sounds.
Then he popped up and …
POP! POW! RAT-a-TAT-TAT! BANG!
I shot him again. In the chest. Near the spot of the other wound.
A red, wet flower bloomed on his t-shirt, spreading outward away from the center of his chest. The blood on his face had already dried. The rusty-red line stretched from that wound and dipped under his jaw to his neck where it disappeared beneath the collar of his shirt.
Quiet. Pure and crystal clear silence, much like one would expect to be found in deep space, or in a vacuum chamber at the south pole. My heart, apparently, didn’t know about the “silent” rule because it was attempting to thrash and pound its way out of my chest. I could hear it franticly beating and throbbing against the inside of my ribs.
Up he came once again, like the eerie clown popping up from the inside of a child’s Jack-in-the-Box. Was there a chorus of Pop Goes the Weasel playing but my stress-induced hearing loss simply wouldn’t allow me to hear it?
I shot him again.
Finally, somewhere around me, a bird chirped. A dog barked. The sounds of people talking began to worm through my ears and into my brain.
Then the shooter leapt to his feet and ran.
I and another officer tackled him.
During our struggle with the man he continue to pull the trigger on his gun.
Click. Click. Click.
Over and over again, he pulled the trigger, until we wrestled the gun away from him.
It was empty.
No more rounds to fire.
I handcuffed his wrists behind his back and immediately EMS workers began their efforts to save him.
I walked away, back to my car where I leaned against the driver’s door to take a breath and to get away from everyone. I needed moment to myself.
I didn’t know how to feel.
I still don’t how to feel.
I do, however, know what it feels like to have pulled a trigger on a pistol when that split second of action took the life of another human.
It was a hot August day. The grass was extremely dry and brittle, like brown slivers of glass reaching up from the soil. A couple of clouds mottled an otherwise perfectly-painted sea of blue. No wind. Not even a slight breeze. The humidity was high. Sirens yelped and wailed in the distance.
And I killed a man. I sure did. And I later read the headlines and heard the whispers. “The cops murdered another one.” “Why didn’t they use a TASER?” “Why didn’t they just run over and tackle him?” “Why not shoot him in the leg?” WHY? WHY? WHY?
Well, why was he shooting at ME?
And YOU, the armchair critics, were not there. You did not feel the fear that comes with someone shooting at you.
This was not an easy thing to do, especially for me. I’m the guy who’ll move a bug off the sidewalk to prevent someone from stepping on it. I catch flies and set them free. I feed birds. I give to the homeless. I don’t like to see people hurt or suffer.
But the man I shot, well, he lay bleeding on the ground, in the dirt and the tall weeds, seeing the blue sky, and seeing all of us, the officers and other first responders standing over him. I saw his eyes focus on the man who was working frantically to stop blood from leaking from his wounds. He looked over to me and then over to another officer who’d just arrived. Then his gaze slowly fixed on a something far above us. A couple of seconds later I saw life drain from those same eyes that had looked at me so intently just a few minutes earlier when he was trying so hard to kill me.
It was as if that specific place in the sky above him was the designated destination for his soul to travel. As the focus left his eyes it seemed as if a peace and a great calm filled the void in his body left behind by the soul that once occupied it. And with that departing soul went a part of me. A part that has never returned to this day.
So yeah. I killed a man. It was part of my job to do so, and he forced me to do it.
I didn’t leave home that morning, with Pop Tart and juice in hand, thinking I would kill someone. I really don’t remember what I was on my mind, but I’m sure my thoughts were most likely on the softball game my daughter was scheduled to play, or maybe a case I was working, or perhaps about my wife who was soon to receive her PhD in pathology. Whatever I was thinking, though, was certainly not about killing a man before my first appointment of the day.
But he wouldn’t drop the gun and he just would not stop shooting at me. I yelled and begged him to stop, but he wouldn’t.
He wouldn’t stop and to this day—today—he’s still trying to kill me.
Every single day of my life.
So yeah, that’s what it’s like to kill someone in the line of duty.
Those who think cops enjoy that part of the job, well, I feel sorry for them.
But I’m glad they don’t have to live my life.
Sure, sometimes I think about the “what if’s”
But there was no other way.
I did eventually learn where the dead guy’s soul went to live.
He’s inside my head …
Clawing and scratching and banging and digging.
I wish he’d find his way out.
I know other officers in the same situation.
It’s a horrible thing to live with, a dead guy inside your head.
But I understand that others don’t understand. Those who don’t know.
But they don’t, and they seem to only feel for the dead, not the person who survived the encounter.
The person who was almost dead.
The person who no longer lives a normal life.
Because of the person who started it all by trying to kill someone.
So yeah, I killed a guy who was trying to kill me.
And a piece of me died that day too.
And I still move bugs off the sidewalk.
And I still worry about other people.
Even though they don’t care and they don’t know what it’s like.
Much has been said recently regarding the prison population in the United States. This volatile conversation has also encompassed the hot-button topics of police shootings, arrests of persons of color, and the believe that police target and kill people of color for no reason whatsoever other than the color of their skin.
Before I continue, though, PLEASE, this post is not an open invitation for cop bashing, race bashing, political bashings or an argument about gun control. Instead, here are a few facts for you to ponder. A conversation about the issues is welcome, but not arguments based on “media-based” misinformation or personal biases.
Please, please, please, let’s avoid the arguments.
Here goes (I’m sighing in advance) …
First, the population of inmates in federal prisons is largely white.
Federal Bureau of Prisons chart and graph
Nearly half of all prisoners occupying bed space in federal prisons are there for drug offenses (46.4%).
Federal Bureau of Prisons chart and graph
Whites make up approximately 64% of the U.S. population. Blacks = 13% of the population.
Overall incarceration percentages in both jails and prisons:
2.3 million people are incarcerated in the U.S. on any given day. Of those 2.3 million …
Whites = 39% of total prison population.
Blacks = 40% of total prison population.
What Do These Numbers Tell Us?
Whites and blacks make up practically equal proportions of jail and prison populations, BUT, the ratio of U.S. population by race is not equal. In fact, there are far more whites in the U.S. than blacks. So why more arrests of blacks and violent encounters between blacks and police officers than whites?
Well, many factors come into play, but before we go any further, let’s leave racism totally off the table for a moment because we have no data to back up any claims of arrests or shootings based solely on the color of someone’s skin. Therefore, we’ll stick to what we know and that’s crime and why people are approached and arrested by police.
Per FBI data for the year 2015:
There were 10,797,088 arrests in 2015. Of these arrests, 505,681 were for violent crimes, and 1,463,213 were for property crimes.
The highest number of arrests were for drug abuse violations (estimated at 1,488,707 arrests)
The estimated arrest rate for the United States in 2015 was 3,363.0 arrests per 100,000 inhabitants. The arrest rate for violent crime (including murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) was 157.2 per 100,000 inhabitants.
First of all, police officers may not pick and choose which laws they can enforce. Laws are laws and it’s an officer’s job to enforce ALL laws. And it doesn’t matter whether or not they believe those laws to be just. If it’s a law and someone chooses to break that law, well, cops are sworn to do their duty.
For example, you’re an officer. You wear a uniform, badge, and gun strapped to your side. You attended the training academy and your instructors taught you to arrest people who’re in possession of marijuana. Sure, marijuana is legal in some states, and you approve, but it’s not legal in your state. In fact, your state laws require that you arrest anyone found to be in possession of even small amounts of the drug. After all, pot is still classified as a Schedule I drug according to federal law, and that’s what you have to go on. Pot is illegal in your area. It is a crime to possess it.
Anyway, you see a subject sitting in his car smoking a joint. You know this is marijuana based upon your training and personal knowledge of how marijuana is smoked. Not really a big deal, though. It’s just a joint, right? Besides, you have other business at hand. However, while observing the dope-smoking, you also notice a gun on the seat beside the guy who’s toking away while listening to Pink Floyd on the 8-track player in his car.
Okay, now you have to act because, even though you work in an open carry state (let’s use Va. as an example) and smoking a joint is so not a big deal these days, the fact that there’s a gun associated with the pot-smoking the situation has now become one that requires the officer to act. And he or she must do so because the two together—gun and pot—constitutes a felony. Remember, marijuana is a Schedule I drug.
Possession of firearms while in possession of certain substances
A. It shall be unlawful for any person unlawfully in possession of a controlled substance classified in Schedule I or II of the Drug Control Act (§ 54.1-3400 et seq.) of Title 54.1 to simultaneously with knowledge and intent possess any firearm. A violation of this subsection is a Class 6 felonyand constitutes a separate and distinct felony.
So you do your duty and arrest the guy. Make sense?
Suppose the guy picks up the gun and gets out of his car with it in his hand as you approach? You have no idea of his intentions so you draw your weapon (wanting to live another day and all that, you know), and you order him several times to drop the gun, but he refuses and starts backing away. You order him to stop, several times, but he doesn’t. Then he makes a very slight move upward with the gun, in your direction. Do you let him bring the weapon up in a position that would enable him to kill you, or do you fire, fearing that he may shoot you, your partner, or an innocent bystander, one of many who’ve now gathered to film the incident?
This is now a life-threatening situation that started out as a lone guy minding his own business while smoking a joint. However, he, the joint-smoker, turned something very minor into a death sentence for someone, and in this case that someone is him. But race played absolutely no part in this. None. In fact, I didn’t mention race at all. Did you imagine one based upon some sort of preconceived notion in your mind? Well, the man in this scenario is merely a nameless, faceless, raceless guy with a gun who broke the law. Had he not been doing something illegal the officer would’ve never given him a second glance.
But he did break the law, and that’s the reason for the initial encounter.
If you attempted to read between the lines to see the suspect’s race, well, that’s sort of the point of this article, as we’ll see in just a moment.
So let’s move forward by getting back to the racial make-up of prison and jail population, and the arrests of people along racial lines.
Percent of Arrests by Race
Again, per FBI data – In 2015, 69.7 percent of all persons arrested were white, 26.6 percent were black, and the remaining 3.6 percent were of other races.
So why is it that we seem to believe that blacks are arrested more often than whites?
Blacks often reside in more densely populated urban locations, and densely populated equals a larger police presence than we see in rural areas or even city suburbs. Therefore, more people and more police in a compact area is a perfect storm for more noticeable arrests. Why? Because crime is more apparent in a compact population, and cops are able to catch the suspects quicker because the suspects are more readily available as are witnesses and evidence of the crimes.
Whites are often the predominant residents of suburban areas where investigations are much slower-paced due to smaller populations and larger search areas for both suspects and evidence. Think of an Easter egg hunt. It’s more difficult to find the eggs when they’re hidden in a large yard than it would be to grab a handful from the basket before they’re spread out and concealed in a broad area.
Obviously, smaller populations = less arrests and less contact with police. More contact = more opportunity for arrests. And, when a population of an area leans more heavily to one particular race then those are the people who generally commit the crimes in those areas and are therefore subject to arrest.
Cultural differences and the way these urban areas are policed also has great deal of bearing on the rates of arrests and on the violence between blacks and police, and I’m basing this on my own experiences. I have seen this stuff first-hand, meaning I’m not relying on government or political or activists’ statistics to make a point or to push an agenda (I do not push agendas. Never).
But, the following is an offering of my professional opinion. Again, this is based on what I know from personal experiences.
I’m a firm believer of the notion that police officers need to park their cars and get out and walk the streets in the areas they patrol and work. They need have meaningful conversations with residents. Go up on the front porches and sit down to talk with the residents. Learn from them. Listen to what they have to say. What are their needs? Are their kids in school? Playing sports? How’s grandma? Is her sciatica acting up again? Do they have heat? Food? Are they being bullied? How’s their week going so far? What can you do to help?
Be seen as a person, not some sunglass-wearing robot who passes by once in a while in a patrol car. Be there for them, but not just during the bad times. Besides, a “drive-by” cop is a total stranger—an outsider who makes people feel uncomfortable. Residents soon begin to feel as if they’re being watched instead of protected. Actually, I totally understand that feeling.
I rarely see a police car pass through our neighborhood. I may have seen one drive through within the past two years. And then, the officer who did drive by my house didn’t look my way or return my wave. I was standing in my front yard, not twenty feet from him as his sunglass-wearing-self drove past. I tried to speak to an officer in the grocery store one afternoon. She walked past without so much as a kiss my a** in response to my greeting. No eye contact because she wore dark sunglasses inside the store.
My point is that I don’t know the officers who patrol my neighborhood. Not a single one. On the other hand, our chief is one of the finest men I know and he’s a people person whose office door is open to all. But he’s not the officer who’d respond to my house if the crap hit the fan, and that’s a problem because those officers would not have a clue about me, my special needs, if any, etc.
COPS NEED TO KNOW THE PEPOLE ON THEIR BEATS.
Officers also need to talk to known criminals. Let them know they’re there to protect the residents and that they won’t tolerate trouble. Look the bad guys in the eye. Get a feel for them and how they operate.
Violence often occurs because one person doesn’t truly understand the other, and that lack of understanding sometimes brings about fear. And, of course, fear brings about the need to self-protect.
Let’s face the facts. White people are often culturally different than black people and black people are sometimes culturally different than white people. Our lifestyles often differ. Our histories are sometimes from different pages in the books. However, we’re all equal and everyone should be treated equally. As I said, sometimes our cultures and lifestyles differ from one another. That doesn’t mean one is better than the other because it’s not and neither is better or worse than the other.
Therefore, attempting to make someone look, act, talk, and seem like something they’re not will never work. Instead, we all need to accept one another for who we are, and police officers absolutely must do the same. Learn the people in the areas where they patrol and work. I can’t stress this enough.
The same is true in reverse, though. The public needs to understand that officers, who are nothing more than specially trained PEOPLE, are there to protect and serve, yes, but part of that “service” is to enforce the laws that are on the books. The public also needs to understand that breaking the law, whether or not you agree with a particular law, is cause for arrest, and that’s part of an officer’s job—arrest law-breakers.
Violence in either direction—officers toward citizens or citizens toward officers—is not acceptable. A huge step toward quelling at least some of the violence, some of the masses of people behind bars, and deaths of both citizens and police officers, is as simple as taking the time to talk and listen.
Yes, a simple, heartfelt conversation on someone’s front porch could mean the difference in life or death.
So, respect your fellow man and obey the law. Officers—respect your fellow man and do not abuse your authority. It’s that simple. Really, it is.
Oh, and the officer who refused to speak to me in the grocery store and the one who drove past my house and did not bother to acknowledge my presence … you are part of the reason people feel as if you’re out to get them, not to help. But I know better. I know cops, for the most part, are wonderful people who’ll come running when a citizen calls. But people need to feel safe all of the time, not just when their house is burning or after some crazy guy shoots innocent people in a mall.
We can’t change yesterday, but tomorrow is a blank page. Let’s write a different story.
We all know that writing a book is the simplest and easiest way to earn a few bucks.
Actually, writing is a bulls**t job that even a trained monkey could do, right?
After all, how hard can it be to plop your hips down in the old easy chair and pluck out a few thousands words. Shoot, it’s all a bunch of made-up gobbledy-goop, anyway.
So here’s the real scoop on how this pie job really goes down. And, to back me up on these few simple steps to “Writing Made Easy,” I went to the pros to get their opinions on the process. And they agree, writing a novel is a piece of cake that anyone can do in in their spare time.
Don’t believe me? Well, see for yourselves. Here are the quick and simple steps to penning a bestseller …
Writing Made Easy
1. Whatever you do, do NOT write every day. In fact, once or twice a month works best for the writers who’re serious about their craft. Do you honestly believe people like Lee Child, Tess Gerritsen, M.J. Rose, Shirley Jump, Chris Grabenstein, Donald Bain, and Laura Lippman chain themselves to a computer seven days a week, hours upon hours per day? Puhleeze …
Yes, writing a novel is a silly little project you can do in your spare time. In fact, anyone can pen a 300 page book in … say … a couple of weeks. Of course, we’re speaking only of writing after dinner, between commercials while binge-watching episodes of Chopped, and after you’ve gone to your favorite club to whip and nae-nae yourself into a dabbing, Shomony frenzy. Right, Lee? MJ?
2. Again, writing is simple and it’s quick easy money, and it’s a silly little project that’ll quickly take you from blank page to zillion-dollar paycheck in no time at all.
3. Never, ever try to spread out the writing process. Instead, bang out 10,000 – 20,000 words each day and you’ll have your totally finished manuscript almost before you can mumble the phrase, “Tom Cruise is not Jack Reacher.”
4. Always, always, always listen to music while writing, especially head-banging metal or classic rock. Of course, a few of the big-shot, fancy-smancy writers prefer Bach or Mozart, but they’re … well, you know. Anyway, music, and the louder the better, sends the creative juices into overdrive!
What about you, Laura? Surely, you’ve got The Ramones cranked up to full volume while you’re hard at work, right? So …
So there you have it, writers. You may now safely step away from the keyboards because those books will write themselves while you head out to the club to drink yourselves silly while Texas Two-Stepping Gangnam Style, or Moonwalking the Macarena.