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Detroit: No stop-and-frisk here

DPD officers search car DONALD BARNES PHOTO

DPD officers search car DONALD BARNES PHOTO

By Donald Barnes
Special to the Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s implementation of the stop-and-frisk policy has local organizations concerned.

Human rights organizations including the Michigan National Action Network, Council on American Islamic Relations Michigan (CAIR-MI), Alliance for Immigrants and the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality convened at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan Sept. 5 to discuss their disapproval of DPD’s search and seizure practices and stop-and-frisk  procedures,  Stop-and-frisk was recently  outlawed in New York City.

“We’re quite pleased that we are able to announce the establishment of a coalition of civil rights and civil liberties organizations,” said Mark Fancher, ACLU attorney.

“There’s a great deal of confusion about this issue … because we don’t know yet all that is planned, or is intended or contemplated by the police department. What’s problematic with respect to the practices that were adopted in New York City is that the program that was developed for training and implementation by the police officers resulted in their engaging in activities which were directly in conflict with the limitations and guidelines that were established in the Terry v. Ohio case.”

Decided in 1968 by the U.S. Supreme Court, Terry v. Ohio states that an officer is not in violation of the Fourth Amendment when stopping and searching a presumed suspect under probable cause.

Federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled Aug. 12 that New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk procedure violated constitutional rights.

“In New York City, there were instances where police officers were stopping many, many people based solely on their racial identification,” said Fancher, who is also the staff attorney for the Racial Justice Project.

“The concern of this coalition is that the very consultants who have  developed a training program for stop-and-frisk … are the same consultants who have been reported to have developed the stop-and-frisk practice in New York City … If those consultants are going to develop a program that instructs the police officers to conduct stop-and-frisk in the way that is was conducted in New York City, we’re going to have a constitutional crisis here in Detroit.”

The ACLU of Michigan recently requested access to DPD’s training procedures but has not yet received the information.

DPD has a long history of discrimination and racial profiling.  Stop the Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets (S.T.R.E.S.S.) was disbanded by Mayor Coleman Young in 1974 after civil rights activists said it violated citizens’ rights.

Local chef Doug Calhoun doesn’t believe stop-and-frisk is the answer to reducing crime but wants to see some action taken toward criminals.

“I don’t necessarily agree with (stop-and-frisk); I think it’s a broad brush to (put) everyone in the same light,” Calhoun said

According to a 2012 New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) study, the police mostly stopped Blacks and Latinos during stop-and-frisk — over 50 percent of the time.

Ron Scott of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality said they’re monitoring the Detroit Police Department’s policies.

Scott said that in a majority Black city such as Detroit, Black officers can and will profile Black residents. He said class, not just race, can influence profiling.

“It’s the system we’re talking about,” he added.

In today’s culture, some young people are profiled because of their clothes, which many wear over-sized. This doesn’t mean they are criminals, says Scott

“It is the culture not the complexion,” Scott said.

“This stereotype has been delivered through television and via community. How they dress, how they look and their swag (affects how they) are seen as potential perpetrators and not citizens.”

Wayne State University students Liquaze Canty and Davon Jones don’t want to be stopped and searched because of the color of their skin or the manner in which they dress. They believe stop-and-frisk is a violation of their rights.

“Anything can be probable cause,” said Canty, “I don’t think (stop-and-frisk) will help.”

Jones said he wouldn’t feel comfortable being approached by an officer in a stop-and-frisk procedure.

“That’s an invasion of my personal space, and it makes me me feel like a bad person when I’m not,” Jones said.

Chief Craig was unavailable for comment.

In an interview with the Michigan Citizen earlier this month, Craig discussed the need for constitutional policing.

Shelby Bruner, a Wayne State senior, doesn’t want to see stop-and-frisk outlawed but believes African Americans could be targeted.

“There are some boys around (campus) that look the part, they let their pants sag,” Bruner said. “I understand how someone could look suspicious.”


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