1) It’s “Stop and frisk” not “Stop and strip search”. Under Terry v. Ohio and its progeny, police officers are allowed to perform a preliminary pat-down to protect their safety when they detain somebody. The emphasis here is on preliminary. Too often, officers interpret Terry as giving them a license to subject the person they’ve detained to an invasive search on the flimsiest of pretexts. In a similar vein, stopping a car and doing a Terry search of the driver does not somehow give the officer the power to search the trunk as well absent probable cause to do so.
2) It’s legal to videotape or photograph the police in the scope of their work so long as the person doing the taping or photography doesn’t interfere with the investigation. The police can ask a photographer or camera person to step back in some circumstances, but they can’t stop them from taping. Indeed, without third-party recording of police activities we might never have known the facts about the beating of Rodney King by the LAPD in 1991, the NYPD’s fatal use of a choke hold on Eric Garner in 2014 and the alleged murder of Walter Scott by a North Charleston police officer in 2015.
3) Official misconduct can give rise to both criminal and civil liability for the officer. It’s true that too often the narrative has seemed to be one where someone (who is usually a person of color) dies at the hands of police or in police custody and the prosecuting attorney hems and haws and ultimately takes no action against the officers. But the public’s tolerance for this sort of collusion between the police and the DA’s office is wearing thin, as recent events on the streets of Baltimore and elsewhere are demonstrating. With technological advances making it more likely that police misconduct will be immortalized in digital form, it will be easier for victims to find lawyers willing to represent them in Sec. 1983 civil suits against the police than ever before. The next step in this evolution will be to find ways for victims to better navigate the pre-lawsuit maze of administrative claims which–too often–they must do prior to hiring a lawyer. As an error here can dramatically weaken a lawsuit or doom it entirely, it’s not surprising public entities want to keep things opaque. If you or a member of your family has been the victim of police misconduct, call us at 215-735-3326, toll free at 800-555-7780 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.