Stop and Frisk Comes to Florida


New York City is apparently not the only city in the country with a massive and racist stop and frisk program. Miami Gardens, Florida has a program that has stopped more than half that city’s residents — most of them young black men, of course — and frisked them without arresting them.

In the summer of 2010, a young black man was stopped and questioned by police on the streets of Miami Gardens, Florida. According to the report filled out by the officer, he was “wearing gray sweatpants, a red hoodie and black gloves” giving the police “just cause” to question him. In the report, he was labeled a “suspicious person.”

He was an 11-year-old boy on his way to football practice.

A Fusion investigation has found that he was just one of 56,922 people who were stopped and questioned by Miami Gardens Police Department (MGPD) between 2008 and 2013. That’s the equivalent of more than half of the city’s population.

Not one of them was arrested.

It was all part of the city’s sweeping “stop and frisk” style policy that may be unparalleled in the nation.

According to a review of 99,980 “field contact” reports, they were stopped, written up and often identified as “suspicious” — but just like the 11-year-old boy — the encounter was recorded in a public database, and they were let go.

Thousands more were arrested after being stopped by the police, raising the total number of people ensnared by the policy to 65,328 during the five-year period.

“I have never seen a police department that has taken the approach that every citizen in that city is a suspect. I’ve described it as New York City stop-and-frisk on steroids.” said Miami-Dade County Public Defender Carlos Martinez…

Earl Sampson has worked for nearly three years at the 207th Street Quickstop, a convenience store that has become the epicenter for police stops.

Earl, 28, says he’s been stopped more than 200 times by the Miami Gardens Police Department. According to records obtained by Fusion, MGPD stopped him and filed a field contact report 181 times. In addition, Earl was arrested 111 times. Seventy-one of those arrests were for trespassing at his place of work.

“They walked through the door, grabbed me and just take me out,” says Sampson. “I told them I work here and they said I don’t care.”

Since the Miami Herald first reported Earl Sampson’s story last year, Quickstop owner Alex Saleh has launched a civil rights lawsuit against the police department and the City of Miami Gardens.

Alex says it all started with the police department’s “zero tolerance” policy, meant to bring down the crime rate by stopping suspected trespassers and loiterers at area businesses. But Alex says police took it too far and now calls police “bullies with badges.”

“I see how officers walk in and take everybody,” Alex told Fusion. “I see there was abuse.”

Alex says he was so appalled that he installed video surveillance cameras in his store — not to record crime but to record police misconduct.

Isn’t it about time we reined in our completely out of control police departments?

Comments

  1. John Pieret says

    New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has at least been giving the impression of reining in stop and frisk. He dropped an appeal of a case ordering a monitor to ensure that it is not being used illegally. Whether it will actually happen …

  2. says

    The 4th amendment reads:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    The part I don’t get is how “probable cause” got moved away from the “no warrants shall issue” part. Only an idiot would read the 4th as not saying that citizens aren’t subject to search at all without a warrant and that the warrant must list probable cause and the things that are being searched for and seized. And of course the idea that our private communications are somehow exempted is equally farcical.

    For some other reason I completely fail to understand, there are a lot of americans who have rallied around a fairly literal interpretation of the 2nd amendment and utterly fail to have a clue about the 4th.

  3. says

    I want to know what they are being frisked for, in a country where everyone should apparently be carrying a weapon. I further don’t understand the issue with loitering, or “trespassing” without a complaint.

    In he case of Sampson and Quickstop, it is clear harassment. No way in hell they don’t know he works there. And no way it’s reasonable to drag a store clerk out of a business for “trespassing”. They are so blatantly full of bullshit on so many counts.

  4. Artor says

    MarcusRanum, I think the problem is the meaning of “unreasonable” search & seizure. The pigs seem to think it’s perfectly reasonable to stop anyone, anytime. Who are we to argue?

  5. D. C. Sessions says

    I may be biased here, but I would guess that being dragged out of his place of work for trespassing might not be actionable. The first time, that is.

    The other 70 arrests? Sounds like he might have a case. Unless, of course, he’s black. In which case there’s no question that he doesn’t belong there.

  6. says

    Now, look, if you haven’t done anything you have nothing to fear. The police are here to protect you, from making it to work on time. Plus, you might be a drug-dealing gangster thug and not even know it!
    Besides, it’s not like they’re harassing white people.

  7. Trebuchet says

    The store owner has a funny furrin’ name. Clearly he’s a Mooslim terrorist anyhow.

  8. Moddey says

    Here’s a choice passage from a Miami Herald article:

    Last year, Saleh, armed with a cache of videos, filed an internal affairs complaint about the arrests at his store. From that point, he said, police officers became even more aggressive.

    One evening, shortly after he had complained a second time, a squadron of six uniformed Miami Gardens police officers marched into the store, he says. They lined up, shoulder to shoulder, their arms crossed in front of them, blocking two grocery aisles.

    “Can I help you?” Saleh recalls asking. It was an entire police detail, known as the department’s Rapid Action Deployment (RAD) squad, whom he had come to know from their frequent arrest sweeps. One went to use the restroom, and five of them stood silently for a full 10 minutes. Then they all marched out.

    They’re not even trying to hide it. They’re thugs*. The mafia with badges.

    *Something I found funny: I was considering using a different word, on account of “thug” being used as a dog-whistle. I punched it into an online thesaurus, and it came up with two antonyms: “law” and “police”. If only.

  9. eric says

    I completely fail to understand, there are a lot of americans who have rallied around a fairly literal interpretation of the 2nd amendment and utterly fail to have a clue about the 4th.

    I think @6 and @7 put their finger on it; the NRA is mostly composed of middle class white people who don’t get stopped or searched that much, while a law making it harder to buy a gun at a show would impact them directly. So they vociferously complain about the latter but not at all about the former. This is the old Mel Brooks problem: “tragedy is when I cut my finger; comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.” It’s tragedy when the white middle class has to wait a few days to buy something, but comedy when the police arrest some shopkeeper for being at work.

  10. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Artor
    Read the text again. There’s an “and” in there.

    1- The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,
    and
    2- no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    So, 1- no unreasonable searches, and 2- all reasonable searches shall have a warrant based upon probable cause etc..

  11. D. C. Sessions says

    Nice try, EL, but that only says that the people are to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures. The cops are being perfectly reasonable.

    As for the second part, no problem — there were no warrants issued. It’s all good.

    What’s missing is any requirement for a reasonable search to have a warrant.

  12. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Well then – I am quite silly. I thought it was clear… but I never looked into this before. The history is rather complicated. Suffice to say, I spoke out of ignorance and false conceit. I might get back to this later.

  13. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I’m reading several histories of common law at the time, and how general writs may have been the single biggest instigator of the American revolutionary war. Interesting.

    I think everyone can agree that general writs are the biggest target of the fourth amendment. I think there’s some disagreement as to whether it was intended as a general protection – which IMHO it was like the rest of the constitutional principles.

    A general writ was a paper issued by a court to a person, often to find illegal contraband. (Illegal contraband often was materials from countries without the proper “trade agreements”. Royal and state monopolies and all.) The holder of such a general writ could search any house or place without cause whatsoever, and there are recorded cases of such people using it openly and blatantly to harass judges who decided other cases against them.

    From the history, the fourth amendment is clearly here to prevent exactly this kind of abuse. Specifically, it is meant to restrain, or it already assumed restrained, the ability of people with writs or warrants (and thus our police) to search or seize without good cause specific to the person or thing to be searched or seized. So, that means that roadside sobriety checkpoints are still bullshit, and suspicionless stop and frisks are still bullshit. Warrant or no warrant, you need some basis particular to the person or thing to be searched or seized. No honest reading of the relevant history regarding general writs can come to any other conclusion.

    Of course, I spoke hastily when I said that all reasonable searches and seizures require warrants. That was silly. That was never the intent. That was never the understanding. It would also be a stupid law. What should be, and what is according to the history, is that warrantless searches and seizures are highly limited. They require a higher burden of probable cause. They are more limited in when and where they can be employed (ex: you generally need a warrant to enter a house, except for a couple of common law exceptions, such as you saw a felon enter the house, good cause to believe immediate danger, etc.).

  14. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Of course, all of my analysis rests on one assumption. I thought it obvious, but apparently it is non-obvious to some legal scholars I have read.

    Everyone agrees that the fourth amendment was to prevent general warrants. A general warrant is a term for some or all of the following properties: 1- Such warrants do not individually describe a person or place to be searched or seized. 2- Related. Such warrants are perpetual and do not expire. 3- Such warrants are not based on (individual) probable cause.

    So, let’s assume for the sake of argument that the fourth amendment was only to prevent abuses of excise officers operating under the power of general warrants. Surely it was understood that the power of an excise offer operating under the power of no warrant is less than operating under the power of a warrant. And surely this should be controlling on our modern day police.

    The alternative is absurd: general warrants are disallowed, but officers gain all of the effective power of a general warrant as part of their everyday reasonable search and seizure power.

    Thus, suspicionless stop and frisk is utterly bullshit even by the most constrained reading of the fourth amendment (plus fourteenth to incorporate it against the states).

  15. D. C. Sessions says

    The alternative is absurd: general warrants are disallowed, but officers gain all of the effective power of a general warrant as part of their everyday reasonable search and seizure power.

    Yup. The logic is perfect.

    However, as far as I can tell that’s the law we live under now: the police, NSA, FBI, DEA, etc. all have either FISA warrants for “everyone in the State of California in the years 2014 through 2028″ or just basic police authority for “anyone suspicious” that there’s no need for specific warrants most of the time.

    It’s the price we pay for our rights.

  16. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @D. C. Sessions

    It’s the price we pay for our rights.

    Can’t tell if sarcasm.

  17. sailor1031 says

    With all this stopping and frisking, one can’t help but wonder how many people are missing cash from their wallets at the end of the frisking? Is this just another money-maker for law enforcement, like drug-case seizures?

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