Friday, June 21, 2024

On Reasonable Suspicion: The perilous drives of ‘Big Baby’ Anderson

Would you like to go for a ride?

 

Allen Gray (Courtesy photo)

You had better buckle up tight, because there are a few things you should be aware of before you turn on the car’s ignition. If you plan on driving while Black or Hispanic, you are much more likely to become a “reasonable” suspect (of what it does not matter), being pulled over, searched, and even arrested. Heavyweight boxing phenom, Jared “Big Baby” Anderson has discovered this unfortunate fact the hard way.

Anderson, lives and trains in Houston, Texas, but he is originally from Toledo, Ohio, where he will sometimes visit as he did this past November 2023. Anderson was born in Toledo, Ohio…Ohio is also the birthplace of Terry v. Ohio—the seminal court case that gave birth to the phrase Terry stop.

Terry v. Ohio (1968) was landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that has had profound and lasting effects on the rights afforded to citizens by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. In Terry v. Ohio, the Court ruled that it is constitutional for the police to “stop and frisk” a person they suspect is armed and with criminal intent—even when there is no probable cause to do so.

(Can you see where this is going?)

Terry established the constitutionality of a limited search, of whomever, for weapons when a policeman has a reasonable suspicion that—based on the circumstances—there is a crime at work. The Court found that a policeman’s interest in the safety of himself and others outweighs an individual’s Fourth Amendment right.

Albeit not every judge on that panel agreed with the Court’s ruling.

The dissenting opinion from the Court was: “A magistrate must establish probable cause before issuing a warrant. Permitting a police officer to conduct a search and seizure on the basis of reasonable suspicion provides an officer with greater authority than a judge and is improper.”

Probable cause is a reasonable belief, based on facts.

Reasonable suspicion is pretty much whatever an officer personally feels is suspicious.
Now which segment of the United States population do you suspect is reasonably suspected the most?

Anderson knew nothing of the intricacies of Fourth Amendment rights or Terry stops when he visited Ohio on November 6, 2023. He was just cruising on the highway in his loud-orange Dodge Challenger taking in the sites of his birth state. Besides, he said, “I wasn’t doing anything.” But he was already guilty of the most damning of all crimes: Driving while Black. It was not long before a law enforcement officer spied him. Based on a reasonable suspicion, Anderson was pulled over, detained, and searched.

During the examination of Anderson’s Dodge, the officer found a gun. When the Terry search was over, the boxer was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm and driving under the influence (DUI).

That stop should have taught Anderson a valuable lesson…but it became a matter of fool me once, fool me twice…

On February 29, 2024, Big Baby decides to go for another cruise on the highway and through Huron Charter Township of Wayne County, about 25 miles southwest of Detroit, Michigan. The problem for a Black motorist driving through Huron Charter Township is that the township has about 31,000 residents and 95% of them are white. So, a Black driver in an orange muscle car is going to be extremely conspicuous, to say the least.

There was Anderson, doing 70 mph in his Dodge Challenger, driving while Black in a lily-white town. A policeman saw “Big Baby” and “Big Baby” saw the policeman. Anderson said he was “emotional” when he pushed his car’s pedal to the metal, and ripped speeds clocked at upwards of 130 mph. He eluded the Huron Township highway patrol three times before he lost control of the Dodge and harmlessly crashed in the mud.

So why did “Big Baby” run from the police on the second encounter?

Anderson might have known from his resident state of Texas what might happen when an officer pulls you over for a second time and you are already on the law’s radar. Texas’ data on motor vehicle stops and subsequent arrests is a cause of concern.

The Texas Department of Public Safety published its Statewide Motor Vehicle Stop Data Report in 2022. This report provides indisputable data that details the glaring disparity in DPS Troopers’ practices on making stops, searches, and subsequent arrests of motorists.

From January1 through December 31, 2022, Texas law enforcement officers made a total of 1,671,833 motor vehicle stops, that were then categorized by race and ethnicity as well as actions taken post-stop. Almost 90% of those stops were made on highways.

Of those stops, whites represented 38.39% of the total, Hispanics represented 48.56% of the stops, and Black people accounted for 11% total number of stops.

This DPS data may not mean much until one weighs the number of stops (and the racial distribution of those stops) against the demographic composite of the state. While Hispanics account for 40% of the population, they represent 46% of the number of all arrests that are the result of being stopped. And Blacks, who account for only 12% of the population, are the subjects of 20% of the total arrests post-stops by law enforcement officers.

Whites, who also account for 40% of the Texas population, account for only 33% of all arrests resulting from stopped vehicles.

Law enforcement officers can do warning stops and they did so 1,101,039 times in 2022. Hispanics were 48% of the total, whites received 41% of those warnings—but Black motorists were only warned without action being taken 9% of the time.

Of the 17,533 arrests made because of the stops, whites were taken to jail 33% of the time, Hispanics were cuffed 46% and Black lock ups made up 20% of the total.

As it is their right to do so, as determined in Terry, officers opted to search Blacks and Hispanics 70% of those times they made stops. Those citizens consented only 75% of the time, and Blacks and Hispanics were arrested about 75% of the time.

There are times when an officer deems it necessary to use force on a motorist. The officers deemed it necessary 75% of the time with Blacks and Hispanics.

According to the DPS report, during those stops, law officers claim to have little to no knowledge of the driver’s race or ethnicity. Although, after the sun goes down—and it is much more difficult to determine the drivers’ race—the number of Blacks who are stopped on reasonable suspicion and then arrested tends to decrease considerably.

Given the disproportionality in the number of stops that Blacks and Hispanics lead all contenders when various forms of contraband are discovered. Those two races combined account for 69% of seized weapons, 88% of seized currency, and 72% of seized currency.
A national survey conducted by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (November 2023 brief) listed whites as the chief abusers of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and opioids at a rate greater than any other race. So, it would stand to reason that it would be whites are subjected to the most Terry stops. Terry stops are a byproduct of the War on drugs that was initiated in the 1980s.

The November 2023 “driving while Black” incident, where the gun was found on Anderson, was only a misdemeanor according to Ohio law, and “Big Baby” received a $200 fine, and a 180-day suspended sentence. Both charges were eventually dismissed, though.

Now, Big Baby is facing charges that are much more serious. During the February 2024 “driving while Black” incident, the boxer committed a cardinal sin for Blacks and Hispanics. He ran from the police. That is a felony punishable by a fine of $1,000 and/or a possible 5-year prison sentence.

Once again, Anderson would have to stand face-to-face with a magistrate, but this time it will be with a prison term and the loss of his career on the line. (A court appearance for his recent charges is still pending.)

The war on drugs of the 80s and Terry stops have generated a vicious cycle that has proven to be inescapable for Blacks and Hispanics.

The police hit the streets with an engrained reasonable suspicion that without a doubt drugs will be found among Blacks and Hispanics. That suspicion results in a disproportionate number of those classes of citizens to be found with some form of contraband. The disproportionality then results in more of them being arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and finally jailed with harsher penalties. Now, for the officer, the reasonable suspicion has been justified and the end justifies the means. Now that the officer believes that his actions have been justified, a profile has been created and that results in more stops of the profiled individuals.

Ironically, a recent ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) report lists the greatest purveyors of illegal drugs and weapons are neither Black nor Hispanic, but instead are whites. Yet, Black people alone are responsible for about 43% of the contraband hit rate.

In another lane of the same highway, a white driver slips under the radar simply because he does not fit the profile. Less whites are stopped so less whites are caught with some form of contraband. If a white driver is pulled over, they are more likely to receive a warning—and less likely to be detained, searched, or arrested.

These practices and unfounded suspicions are why Blacks and Hispanics are reluctant to cooperate with police during criminal investigations…And that is why “Big Baby” tested the speed of his orange Dodge Challenger through the highways and byways of Huron Charter Township

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