Massachusetts high court rules Black Men within reason to flee Police; tosses gun conviction

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Black men who try to avoid an encounter with Boston police by fleeing may have a legitimate reason to do so — and should not be deemed suspicious — according to a ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Citing Boston police data and a 2014 report by the ACLU of Massachusetts that found blacks were disproportionately stopped by the city's police, the state’s highest court on Tuesday threw out the gun conviction of Jimmy Warren.

Warren was arrested on Dec. 18, 2011, by police who were investigating a break-in in Roxbury. Police had been given a description of the suspects as three black men — one wearing a “red hoodie,” one wearing a “black hoodie” and the other wearing “dark clothing.” An officer later spotted Warren and another man (both wearing dark clothing) walking near a park. When the officer approached the men, they ran. Warren was later arrested and searched. No contraband was found on him, but police recovered an unlicensed .22 caliber firearm in a nearby yard. Warren was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and later convicted.

In its ruling, the court made two major findings: The justices said police didn’t have the right to stop Warren in the first place, and the fact that he ran away shouldn’t be used against him.

"The state’s highest court, in talking about people of color, it’s saying that their lives matter and under the law, their views matter," Segal said. "The reason that’s significant is that all the time in police-civilian encounters there are disputes about what is suspicious and what is not suspicious. So this is an opinion that looks at those encounters through the eyes of a black man who might justifiably be concerned that he will be the victim of profiling."

The ACLU's report found that between 2007 and 2010, 63 percent of Boston police encounters were with blacks, though at that time the city's black population was just 24 percent. Notably, the report said that taking into account high-crime neighborhoods did not explain the disparity.

Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans blasted the SJC ruling (surprise surprise) and said he was "troubled" the court cited the ACLU report, which he called "heavily tainted against the police department."

http://www.wbur.org/news/2016/09/20/mass-high-court-black-men-may-have-legitimate-reason-to-flee-police

Link to court ruling: http://www.mass.gov/courts/docs/sjc/reporter-of-decisions/new-opinions/11956.pdf

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