Quote: Originally Posted by davesmom
I hope someone will enlighten me about something I am curious about. I don't know American laws.
I'm hearing complaints from black American motorists that they are stopped frequently by police for no reason.
Doesn't 'probably cause' apply to traffic police?
Here in Canada he police will only stop a vehicle if there is something wrong with the vehicle like a tail light out or a cracked windshield. Or if the driver has committed a traffic violation. Unless there is probable cause to stop a motorist the police cannot do it.
So I'm wondering if that law applies in the States and if so, why don't those who are stopped for no reason report it immediately?
I also wonder, if traffic policing is a State responsibility, what can the Federal Government do about it?
OK. . .
The term is "probable cause." That is the standard for arrest. It means the same thing as it means in Canada: that the officer has, based on observable, objective facts, reason to believe that a crime is being committed or has been committed.
There is also the standard for detention. That standard is "reasonable suspicion." If an officer has, based on objective facts and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime, the officer may detain the person, obligate the person to identify herself, interrogate the person as to her presence and actions, and if the officer has reasonable suspicion that the person may be armed, "frisk" the person, defined as a brief pat-down of the outer clothing for evidence of weapons. Under no circumstances is one ever required to answer police questions beyond identifying oneself, and that only in states that require it.
There are two sources of the "traffic stop" problem. First, there are reams of data showing that the police stop, search, cite, and arrest black people disproportionately. But the sources are these. . .
Stops for minor violations, such as speeding by just a few miles per hour, non-functioning taillights or license plate lights, and the like.
"Pretextual" stops, where the officer claims some fictional reason for stopping the person, such as "failing to signal 100 feet before a turn or lane change," or "crossing lane dividers." In these cases there is reason to believe, and increasingly, video evidence that the stop is actually for DWB (driving while black), and the alleged infraction is merely an excuse. An officer must be able to show reasonable suspicion or a specific traffic violation to stop a driver.
In the case of minor violations, some claim that cops stop blacks more often because of racism and/or because they are generating revenue for the state. In the case of pretextual stops, the claim is racism.
Data shows that blacks who are stopped are also more likely to be removed from the car (which cops can do for their safety), searched (lawfully or unlawfully), and arrested (rather than cited) disproportionately.
As to why they don't report it, it's a combination of the difficulty in reporting such things, and a strong conviction that nothing will be done about it. Both of those opinions are well backed by evidence.
Traffic policing is indeed a State responsibility, but civil rights and discrimination is a Federal responsibility.