Black men fleeing the police is reasonable, Massachusetts court rules

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A Massachusetts court rules that a history of racial bias in police searches makes it reasonable for black men to flee. Photo by Matthew Palmer/Getty Images

When black men flee to avoid an encounter with police, they’re not being suspicious. That’s according to a recent ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. As WBUR’s Zeninjor Enwemeka reports, the high court ruled that a documented “pattern of racial profiling of black males in the city of Boston,” makes an instinctive reaction to flee reasonable.

[T]he court noted that state law gives individuals the right to not speak to police and even walk away if they aren’t charged with anything. The court said when an individual does flee, the action doesn’t necessarily mean the person is guilty. And when it comes to black men, the BPD and ACLU reports “documenting a pattern of racial profiling of black males in the city of Boston” must be taken into consideration, the court said.

“We do not eliminate flight as a factor in the reasonable suspicion analysis whenever a black male is the subject of an investigatory stop. However, in such circumstances, flight is not necessarily probative of a suspect’s state of mind or consciousness of guilt. Rather, the finding that black males in Boston are disproportionately and repeatedly targeted for FIO [Field Interrogation and Observation] encounters suggests a reason for flight totally unrelated to consciousness of guilt. Such an individual, when approached by the police, might just as easily be motivated by the desire to avoid the recurring indignity of being racially profiled as by the desire to hide criminal activity. Given this reality for black males in the city of Boston, a judge should, in appropriate cases, consider the report’s findings in weighing flight as a factor in the reasonable suspicion calculus.”

Check out the full report over at WBUR.

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