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Opinion

Opinion

Search policy violates rights

October 30, 2011

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“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated ...”

— Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Just in case you forgot.

There has been, after all, an appalling amount of forgetting where that amendment is concerned. And New York City has become the epicenter of the amnesia. Yes, the “stop and frisk” policy of questioning and searching people a cop finds suspicious is used elsewhere as well. But it is in the big, bruised apple that the issue now comes to a head.

Federal agents recently arrested a New York City cop on charges of violating the civil rights of an African-American man. Officer Michael Daragjati allegedly stopped the man in April and threw him against a parked van to search him. No drugs or weapons were found, but Daragjati reportedly became angry when the man questioned his rough treatment and requested the officer’s name and badge number. So Daragjati ran him in on a charge of resisting arrest. Later, talking on the phone to a friend, he bragged that he had “fried another nigger” and that it was “no big deal.” This was overheard by the feds, who had him under surveillance in a separate investigation.

Let no one fix his or her mouth to pronounce themselves “surprised.” Blacks and Hispanics have complained for years about the selective attention they get from police. Giving cops the power to randomly stop and search pedestrians they find suspicious could not help but exacerbate the problem.

Last year, about 600,000 people were stopped and frisked in New York. Though blacks and Hispanics account for just over half the city’s population, they represent about 85 percent of those stopped. The Center for Constitutional Justice, a civil rights group, says drugs or weapons are turned up in less than 2 percent of those stops.

It bears repeating: less than 2 percent.

That failure rate suggests at minimum a need to change the standard by which police decide whom to stop. “Suspicion” obviously isn’t cutting it.

Daragjati’s alleged malfeasance also suggests a crying need for stricter oversight.

The argument in defense of stop-and-frisk can be boiled down to two words: It works. Marc Lavorgna, a spokesman for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, says crime has been driven to “historic lows” in part by this tactic.

The response to that argument also boils to two words: So what?

The crime rate has been falling for years all over the country, so it’s hard to single out what effect this particular tactic in this particular town might have had. But assume it does work. Can that truly be our standard for deciding what is acceptable?

If it is, why not allow police to search private homes without warrants? Why not ban private ownership of firearms? These things, too would work. More criminals would be arrested. Fewer people would die.

And all it would cost is a few constitutional rights.

Most of us are not black or Hispanic, most of us do not live in New York. But all of us have constitutional rights, so all of us have a stake in the drama playing out in our largest city.

The Fourth Amendment means what is happening there is wrong. Or it means nothing at all.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.

Comments

Mike Ford 2 years, 5 months ago

math...you see mitty when you look in the mirror...right????

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kansasredlegs 2 years, 5 months ago

While I doubt such police action as described in the article happens in Lawrence as there are no proven incidents, I think it's time for Mayor Cromwell to step up, open his mouth, and propose an ordinance protecting Lawrencians against such human rights abuses much like he he did so forcefully for the non-transgressed transgenders and cross dressers in our community. Come on Mayor Cromwell, protect us from LKPD even though no documented cases, if it could happen in NYC, it's gotta be going on here also based on your previous illogical and irrational methodology. Please save us!

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Mike Ford 2 years, 5 months ago

February 26, 2002, a Kiowa acquaintance and I had gone to White Cloud, KS. Lewis and Clark was the deal in that time. We took the highway north of Atchison and went up there. We left from the Rez and one of my headlights started going off and on. Rez cops pulled us over but they had no jurisdiction because we weren't Iowa Indians and that rez is very alloted meaning their jurisdiction was checkerboarded. They let us go but this wasn't for long. As soon as we made it down the hill to the part of NB-7 that floods and headed south towards Kansas and crossed over into Kansas we had a Durango and two cop cars on us. They did the whole circular thing looking into the car which had no trunk. Everything was in plain sight. They tried the separate question thing and my friend had his Kiowa ID. They didn't like the Columbus was lost sticker on my back window. My friend told me not to let them search because they looked and acted like planters of evidence. They asked for permission to search the car. I had no concept of fear and told them normally I would comply but since I knew they were profiling and I knew my rights they were not allowed to search my car. A couple of minute went by and they turned us loose. A couple of miles north of Sparks, Kansas, a county deputy coming north at us pulled us over again with a cop dog. We had a choice freak out or laugh.....we laughed. The cop dog scratched my new paintjob and I told the cop to get his d... dog off my car. We were let go again. I vowed not to go through another small Children of the Corn Nahollo town back to Lawrence. Later on I was at a McDonalds and told a man applying for the KHP this story. He told me I was lucky I wasn't tossed in the Missouri River and that they were corrupt. His words not mine. Funny enough it was big government that stopped the Klan nonsense around Philadelphia Mississippi in the early 1960's. It was federal laws that stopped public segregation that Rand Paul said was an overstep of federal authority a year ago. It was federal intervention that occurred at Little Rock and Ole Miss. I hear states rights...I hear racism... I'm happy that judicial activism ended Plessy V. Ferguson and a number of other nefarious racial laws. I love hearing waaaagh people like Libertybell attack big government when it takes big government to make his people behave. If you don't want federal intervention....behave appropriately towards others....sorry someone has to make you behave...

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Crazy_Larry 2 years, 5 months ago

http://www.constitution.org/uslaw/defunlaw.htm

“Citizens may resist unlawful arrest to the point of taking an arresting officer's life if necessary.” Plummer v. State, 136 Ind. 306.

“When a person, being without fault, is in a place where he has a right to be, is violently assaulted, he may, without retreating, repel by force, and if, in the reasonable exercise of his right of self defense, his assailant is killed, he is justified.” Runyan v. State, 57 Ind. 80; Miller v. State, 74 Ind. 1.

“These principles apply as well to an officer attempting to make an arrest, who abuses his authority and transcends the bounds thereof by the use of unnecessary force and violence, as they do to a private individual who unlawfully uses such force and violence.” Jones v. State, 26 Tex. App. I; Beaverts v. State, 4 Tex. App. 1 75; Skidmore v. State, 43 Tex. 93, 903.

“An illegal arrest is an assault and battery. The person so attempted to be restrained of his liberty has the same right to use force in defending himself as he would in repelling any other assault and battery.” State v. Robinson, 145 ME. 77, 72 ATL. 260

“Each person has the right to resist an unlawful arrest. In such a case, the person attempting the arrest stands in the position of a wrongdoer and may be resisted by the use of force, as in self- defense.” State v. Mobley, 240 N.C. 476, 83 S.E. 2d 100

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Crazy_Larry 2 years, 5 months ago

FYI: We lost our 4th Amendment Rights back in May of this year. I'm not surprised a lot of folks haven't heard about it as I don't believe a single word was mentioned by this award winning news site.

http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_ec169697-a19e-525f-a532-81b3df229697.html

May 13, 2011 - What 4th Amendment? Indiana Sheriff Says Random, Warrantless House To House Searches Are Okay (from the thanks-Indiana-supreme-court dept.)

Overturning a common law dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1215, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes.

In a 3-2 decision, Justice Steven David writing for the court said if a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all, a homeowner cannot do anything to block the officer's entry.

http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/kentucky-v-king/

And to top it all off, the U.S. Supreme Court made a similar ruling 3 days later.

May 16, 2011 - Kentucky v. King

Holding: The exigent circumstances rule applies when the police do not create the exigency by engaging in or threatening to engage in conduct that violates the Fourth Amendment.

Plain English Holding: Police may enter a home without a warrant in response to an emergency (including the imminent destruction of evidence) so long as the police do not themselves create the emergency through conduct that violates the Fourth Amendment.

Judgment: Kentucky Supreme Court Reversed, 8-1, in an opinion by Justice Alito on May 16, 2011. Justice Ginsburg filed a dissent.

The End is Near!

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its_just_math 2 years, 5 months ago

Pitts: The guy who told white residents of Knoxville "cry me a river" when they were infuriated over the treatment of a case in which five young blacks murdered a young white couple.

No, not too much respect for race-baiters like Pitts. Now we see it at fever-pitch along with the new and improved form of class warfare, compliments of our president, his handlers and his teleprompter.

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weeslicket 2 years, 5 months ago

i just find it interesting that a certain poster comments in volumes to articles on this site, and then requests that other posters NOT respond to those same posts! how very odd.

anyway, everyone back to their libertarian dystopias.

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cheeseburger 2 years, 5 months ago

'Last year, about 600,000 people were stopped and frisked in New York. Though blacks and Hispanics account for just over half the city’s population, they represent about 85 percent of those stopped.'

An interesting statistic would be the percentage of crimes committed by the aforementioned. That would seem to be more relevant than the population comparison.

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jaywalker 2 years, 5 months ago

Have to agree with Pitts that 600k stopped and frisked for a 2% return is disturbing to say the least. And so is the cop's comments regarding trumping up charges. I'm curious how long it will be before all police are miked up at all times on the streets. I know video for patrolmen has been tested out on their person. With technology today, I have to believe such measures would have to be good for everyone involved; protection for the police for false accusations, and to protect themselves from themselves which would benefit the citizens. I've known a number of cops over the years and it's amazing how their attitudes towards a specific race will turn hostile due to what they deal with on a daily basis.

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Getaroom 2 years, 5 months ago

Thanks you Leonard Pitts for another marvelous article!!
And ...just_math figures it all wrong - yet again. The one who rails against government at any chance, puts down people who rightfully gather to speak out against injustices, but who himself seems to have a beef with law enforcement doing their job and then plays the personal "someone done me wrong card". A couple of posts sound like bad country western songs, one in particular when "fishin' on the Kaw done went wrong".
Liberty_One and just_math inevitably go off on Pitts every time, like conjoined twins. It's kind of sweet really how they seem to be joined on the "right" side. Not to be confused with always correct mind you. Too personal? Ok, if it offends 'the' just have this entire post removed so thine eyes need not be offended. But wait, I am gathering peacefully here, don't gas me!!!!

Ron Paul is no hero, he is simply a man who chooses to live in a land made up of a fantasy society, where rules and regulations are not needed, the free market and humanity are Ethical and Moral and above all else they not greedy and therefore no need for Government. I should say he supports no regulations other than Biblical Law. We have a Rev Gov who is trying to live that dream at the expense of the well being of an entire state already. For Paul, Government might be needed to make an occasional war here and there or build a road. Ron Paul is not a leader, he is just another out-front man who is willing to parade his ideology around in public, not a bad guy, but misguided and delusional on a grand scale, whether well intentioned or not! And for Liberty_One it is OK for posters to get personal with journalists, but not him. The skin must be wearing thin, so I suggest toughen up, or like any one here, you are free to find a more Liberating blog for himself. Really, everyone here on this post, is quite willing and allowed to express their own ideas and thoughts about any subject that comes up, whether it be on global or more local issues. Opt in or out, the call is personal. There are plenty of web sites devoted to racists, bigoted and ultra conservative ideology, where cyber companionship and agreement can be found. One thing for sure, on this blog you are not always going to find agreement. If is a pat on the back is what you are looking for, reach your arm around and turn your palm over. You may however need to take some "Liberal Yoga" for that feat to be accomplished, unless of course you are flexible and it appears NOT! Much to your dismay of posters like Liberty_One and just_math, this is not an ideological black and white world. Who ever thought we needed human rights anyway? Must have been some whiners and losers who could not pull themselves up by the boot straps, or maybe they were non whites who wanted protection from "the others". Or maybe some "Liberal" who thought it was a good idea for the common good. Human rights? What? Defund them.

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Floyd Craig 2 years, 5 months ago

but the law might have thought u were molesting the boy a long time ago a nut case was fishing with a lil boy alot spent alot of tuime wiht him n then >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>. he went missing and the found his body cut up n buried and had ne molested I think he was 9 or 10 so I can see why the law was questioning you so much but hope they didnt go to far as some law officers dose at times hope your son is ok now

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 5 months ago

I scanned this article for any mention of Rand Paul, yet didn't find it.

I'll be scanning all articles I read today for Rand Paul, that poor oppressed senator from Kentucky with the unfortunate first name.

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its_just_math 2 years, 5 months ago

Well, Pitts manages to do it again. Just when I would tend to agree with him on the limitations of search and seizure, he has to go and make it more of a race thing.....really no surprise though. I must say, when you're in a big city and moreover in the inner city, who are you going to find wandering around out in the streets, especially at odd hours? Think about it. As a final comment, I've had county deputies (sp?) shake me down on a innocent fishing trip in the morning until my 8 yr old was nearly in tears when the one (expletive deleted here) suggested "detaining"me and said "You're not going anywhere until we figure out what's going on" which was absolutely nothing----they were after someone else it turns out. I/we had not violated one single law---just fishing on the Kaw.

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Liberty_One 2 years, 5 months ago

How dare Pitts. He slanders men like Rand Paul who would stand up for all our fourth amendment rights but then he complains about it when the state violates our rights?

It's people like Pitts that really don't get it. He can't seem to put two and two together. Politicians who are consistently in favor of more government intervention in all other areas of our lives are not going to make an exception for our individual civil rights. Those like Paul who are consistently in favor of smaller government are the ones standing up for our rights! He just doesn't get it and it's people like this that are harming themselves 9and the rest of us) by slandering those who actually stand for our individual rights.

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