“Police Stops” Event Tonight

Just a reminder for PoT readers: “Police Stops: What Are Your Rights? What Should You Do?” is tonight, @7-8:15 pm, Education Commons Auditorium, Felician University’s Rutherford campus, 227 Montross Ave, Rutherford, New Jersey 07070. The event is the second (of five) in the University’s year-long series on Race and Criminal Justice in America. It’s sponsored by the Felician University Committee on Leadership & Social Justice, the Department of Criminal Justice, the UN Fellows Program, and the Pre-Law Program.

I happened to have conversations with both speakers over the last week or so, and am confident that we’ll have an informative, enlightening, productive conversation tonight. They agree on enough to share common ground, but disagree on enough to bring out some important unresolved issues.

I don’t want to speak for them, but as predicted earlier, I have a hunch that compliance-during-the-stop will be one of those unresolved issues. To put the issue in a nutshell:

  1. John’s position seems to be that full compliance during a stop is mandatory; a police stop is not the proper time or place for a dispute over civil liberties between officer and the person stopped. When you’re stopped, you do as you’re told by the officer who’s stopped you. If you have a complaint to make about some aspect of your stop, comply for the moment, then wait to report it to the police department’s Office of Internal Affairs later on.
  2. Maria’s position seems to be or imply a denial of some aspect of John’s position: full compliance is not always mandatory; some stops can be the proper occasion for a civil disagreement between officer and stopped person. When you’re stopped, you mostly do as you’re told by the officer who’s stopped you, but there are limits, and you have the right to insist on them during the stop itself.

For now, I’ll just say: both claims cannot be true. I’ll add: come to the event to figure out which one is. Or if some other one is.

3 thoughts on ““Police Stops” Event Tonight

  1. I wrote this comment on Facebook, in response to some people who expressed regret that they wouldn’t be able to attend the Police Stops event. I think we ended up resolving the first issue in a pretty satisfying way (while raising a few further questions on a related topic), but didn’t discuss the other two. I’ll try to summarize the event here when I get the chance. And yes, I really ought to be videotaping these events and streaming them, but I never seem to get around to making the order for the videotaping equipment from the relevant office in my university. (Shades of Anita Desai’s In Custody…)

    Much of what’s discussed at the event will inevitably be introductory, but there are some deep, difficult philosophical issues that need addressing–and that I’m hoping we’ll touch on. The first is the extent to which the right to refuse cooperation w/ the police can meaningfully be exercised during a “Terry” stop. A second is how the probabilistic nature of the reasonable suspicion criterion can be reconciled with the non-probabilistic idea of a Fourth Amendment right to security. And a third is how the “case by case” nature of criminal procedure (as codified in court cases, textbooks, and police academy courses in procedure) can be reconciled with a stringent norm like a right. The inquiry requires a real integration of theoretical and practical perspectives. There’s conceptual work to do, but then there’s the issue of vicariously taking on the first person perspective of the people involved in the action–officers and suspects both.


  2. Pingback: Felician University Event: “Community Policing in Rutherford” | Policy of Truth

  3. Pingback: “Policing the Police” | Policy of Truth

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