‘Reasonable suspicion’ defined: Black men who run from police can’t be assumed guilty

A ruling from the highest court in Massachusetts that provides some qualification on what constitutes ‘reasonable suspicion’ aims to protect black citizens from racial profiling.  

By Amanda Hoover, Staff September 22, 2016

Massachusetts’s highest court ruled that black men who flee voluntary encounters with police shouldn’t be looked at with greater suspicion than those who comply with consensual stops, as they may have a legitimate reason based in fear to do so.

The ruling came in a case against Jimmy Warren, a black man in Boston accused of unlawfully possessing a firearm. While searching the the city’s Roxbury neighborhood for break-in suspects, police approached Mr. Warren, who fit a vague suspect description, and he ran. Officers then found an unlicensed firearm in a nearby yard and charged Warren with possession, even though he had no contraband related to the home robbery.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that police shouldn’t have stopped Warren at all, and that fleeing consensual police questioning, which doesn’t violate any law, did not indicate evidence of guilt. The charges against him were thrown out.


I’m troubled, basically, that this decision relied on a biased report by the ACLU,” Boston Police Commissioner William Evans told The Boston Globe. He said his officers “do a great job every day taking the guns off the street, and we’re going to continue to do that … I don’t believe we target anyone because of their race.”



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