On Wednesday, September 21, 2016, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court got rid of the 2011 gun conviction involving Jimmy Warren. He was charged with having a firearm without a permit, but was arrested because he fled from the police when questioned.
The court noted the differences between what the officers reported and what the officers were supposed to search for. The officers were supposed to be looking for three suspects and decided to target two African-American males. The officers were also only given a vague description that the men who had committed the crime were wearing hoodies and dark clothing.
When officer Luis Anjos approached the two gentlemen, they made eye contact with Anjos and took off in the other direction. They were subsequently arrested after further assistance was requested.
The court ruled that the individuals running away from the police is not enough for an officer to conclude or be suspicious that illegal activity has occurred. The court is quoted saying that the individuals fleeing the scene is not enough to prove “a suspect’s state of mind or consciousness of guilt.”
The court backed up their decision by citing Boston police data and a 2014 Massachusetts ACLU report that confirmed that African-American individuals are more likely to be stopped and questioned by the city’s police. The court used these reports to determine that racial minorities are more likely to be targeted by the Boston police and are subjected to more frisks, searches, and interrogations than their white counterparts.
The court concluded, based on their analysis of the research, that a black man may be running away from the police in order to avoid being racially profiled. It may have nothing to do with them having committed a crime.
Boston’s Police Commissioner Bill Evans was reportedly unhappy with the court’s ruling. He believes that the judges gave too much importance to the ACLU report and that they ignored all of the work that has been done to correct the problem of racial profiling by Boston police.
He says that since 2010 the police force has made “significant changes” in the way it protects its citizens by incorporating new training, documentation requirements, and by being as transparent as possible with community members and people working with the ACLU.
Defense attorney Nicholas Braswell commented, “While Commissioner Evans has taken positive steps to improve the racial divide between law enforcement and the people they are protecting, the court still made the right decision by acknowledging the culture of low expectations that have allowed police officers to get away with racial profiling.”
These low expectations allow officers to make the assumption that if an African-American person is suspicious of the police, then they clearly must be guilty of committing a crime.
They also let officers believe that if a person does not trust them, then they clearly must be bad people. Thankfully, the court is also recognizing that African-American individuals may have good reasons to avoid and run away from the police.
This shows that the law enforcement’s assumptions about racial-minorities committing crimes are not enough and that they must do a better job of fostering positive relations with members of each racial community.