According to a ruling made Tuesday by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, based on the Boston Police Department’s record bias against black men, Black men may have legitimate cause to flee the police.
WBUR reports that a court found that Black men fleeing police wasn’t enough to necessarily justify suspicion. This ruling came about after the state’s highest court threw out a gun conviction against Jimmy Warren.
Warren was arrested in 2011 by police who were investigating a break-in in Roxbury. Police were given the description of three Black men and when they spotted two men they believed matched the profile thy approached them.
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Both men fled, Warren was captured and searched by police, who found nothing. Later a gun was found in a nearby yard and Warren was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm.
The court ruled that police didn’t have the right to stop Warren to begin with and that his fleeing should not be used against him.
In their statement, the justices said:
“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 [Field Interrogation and Observation] 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.”
The Boston Police Department told The Huffington Post that they find the ruling “troubling.”
The courts decision is based on a report done by the American Civil Liberties Unit of Massachusetts. Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans believes that the ACLUM’s report is biased against police despite the fact that an investigation done by the Boston Police Department also found racial bias.
ACLUM Director Matthew Segal stated that their report used the same data used by researchers the police department selected and he hopes that the ruling will lead to change.
“It has a chance to profoundly influence policing in Massachusetts. It has a chance to profoundly protect people in Massachusetts from undue police violence, and it has a chance to influence decisions all over the country.”