Racialicious on Walking While Black

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Ozy Frantz is a student at a well-respected Hippie College in the United States. Zie bases most of zir life decisions on Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and identifies more closely with Pinkie Pie than is probably necessary. Ozy can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter as @ozyfrantz. Writing is presently Ozy's primary means of support, so to tip the blogger, click here.


  1. Speaking of marijuana in New York. Possession of (small quantities of) marijuana was decriminalized in New York, made into a civil violation, the equivalent of a traffic ticket. But public display is still a crime. So those people carrying small amounts of marijuana are legally not doing anything worse than speeding or parking in a no-parking zone. Then, they’re stopped by the police, and told “empty your pockets”, and suddenly it’s an arrest for “public display”. When the display was at the order of the police officer.

  2. I’m not sure if it’s the plain view doctrine, or a similar legal theory, but I think a huge part of the problem is the notion that probable cause for one crime legally allows a search, during which any evidence for any other crime found is admissible, despite the lack of probable cause for the new crime. Combine this with the drug war and you’ve got a recipe for a huge amount of fishing expeditions looking for easy drug collars.

  3. Fnord: Isn’t that the text book definition of entrapment?

  4. No, it’s not entrapment. See here: http://thecriminallawyer.tumblr.com/post/19810672629/12-i-was-entrapped

    IANAL, but the person who wrote the cartoon is.

  5. According to the comic it is entrapment. it fills both requirements given in that the crime was caused by the police and that the person wouldn’t do it otherwise

  6. @JE:
    Probably. In fact, it’s been pointed out that few of the arrests actually lead to convictions.

    You’re still looking at being handcuffed, strip searched, and taken to jail, possibly for several days. And even an arrest can be seriously stigmatizing (have fun explaining to your employer that you missed work because you were in jail).

    The whole fourth amendment jurisprudence is fucked up, anyway. Even when none of the (many) exceptions apply, by and large suppression is the only remedy. As Ozy mentioned, 88% of those victimized by New York’s Stop and Frisk are totally innocent, even of bullshit marijuana offenses. So, for the vast majority, there is no remedy.

  7. Incidentally, the frisk allowed in a Terry Stop is SUPPOSED to be for officer safety, since the standard of evidence is lower than is normally required for a search. A search for weapons only, if there is reasonable suspicion that the suspect is armed.

    If you thought 88%, the proportion of totally innocent people frisked, was a high false positive rate, guess how many people who were “reasonably suspected” of carrying weapons were armed: 0.15%; less than one in five hundred.


  8. NYC has been crawling with police ever since Occupy, and it’s really quite terrifying. I think they’re ramping up a presence in preparation for May 1st too, which I am not looking forward to at all. In fact, I think I’m probably going to stay inside as much as I can thereabouts. I’ve got friends in high-ish places here too, people with a little clout, (someone with hush-hush ties to Occupy, who advised them on economic matters in the beginning), and his wife told me that the cops are apparently systematically busting his younger, college-age friends associated with the movement, in their homes, and detaining them for 72 hours at a time (complete with sleep deprivation, witholding food and water, restraining them in rigid sitting positions, etc).

    And that’s just OWS, which is mostly white kids.

    Another thing that comes to mind is the relatively recent reporting on a scandal that happened with the 81st precinct in Brooklyn, which is one of two that service my neighborhood, which is predominantly black: http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-05-04/news/the-nypd-tapes-inside-bed-stuy-s-81st-precinct/

    So I guess.. yeah. NYPD are a bunch of fucking asshole thugs. /tangent

  9. @Fnord that’s because they’re not looking for weapons, they’re looking for drugs. They don’t have probable cause to search for drugs, but due to various rulings related to officer safety, they can frisk someone for a weapon just as a routine matter. And if they should happen to find drugs during this suddenly legal pat-down… well there you’ve got a lot of nice easy collars that look good on crime stats.

  10. @Ferris:
    Exactly my point. Sorry if I wasn’t clear; I was trying to point out that
    1) The statistics show that the idea that they’re looking for guns, which what they’re claiming to be doing, is ludicrous.
    2) Looking for drugs at Terry Stops, which is what they’re actually doing, is illegal.

  11. A disturbing thing that I realized is how much it seems people may normalize such racism. There are areas (cities, communities) where people are aware the police profile people of color, particularly black people. “I live in Fraser. Yeah, where the police suck; they stop anybody that is black and don’t even think about doing one mile over the limit. Try not to speed!” It seems like all white people I know can name a place like this. Just a part of everyday, treated like its hilarious or an annoyance equal to being busted for technically breaking the law if you’re not actually impacted by the practice. Is nothing done due to apathy, a belief held by racist whites that its okay, the belief that it can’t be proven or nothing will change anyway, or a combination of a few or all of those?

  12. Matthew Swaye says:

    Stop Stop&Frisk. Film the police:

    “Outside While Black”

  13. A friend of mine who is in a criminology program went on a ride along with police officers in Philadelphia. The police were unapologetic about how they make up any excuse to pull over drivers (who were all black males) and frisk them (frisking includes searching around their testicles). This happens every day in cities like Philadelphia and New York. It’s gross and needs to stop. I am glad that this blog is giving attention to the issue.

  14. I’m sure I heard of a black trans man saying he was being arrested 9 times more often post transition than before.

  15. Invictus says:

    Walking while “other” is apparently not ok in a lot of places. Years ago as a young lower-middle class male living in an upper-middle to upper class area I would walk the mile x mile radius around my house or to the nearby 7-11 almost every day for years and years. I can count the number of times on my hands that I wasn’t stopped or harassed either by the police, or by people living in the area or driving by. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like if I was non-white.

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