Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Driving While White: IMPD Officer Does Fake Arrest, Handcuffs Young Female Motorist While Searching Car (Includes New Update)

Yesterday afternoon my 20 year old niece, an honors student at the IU Kelley School of Business, was at her friend's home near 34th and Martin Luther King. The friend, and my niece, are white.

After an afternoon of studying, my niece left in her relatively nice car to head toward the IUPUI campus. Soon she encountered an IMPD police officer in a car sitting at a four-way stop. The officer waved my niece through the stop sign then immediately turned the car around and began following her.

After driving a short distance south on Dr. Martin Luther King St, the officer pulled my niece over. He came to the window and asked to see her driver's license. He asked what she was doing in the Martin Luther King neighborhood. My niece said she was visiting a friend. He asked if she had weapons. She replied "no." He never told her she was speeding, ran a stop sign, or anything to justify the stop.

He had my niece exit the car. He then asked again if she had weapons. She again replied "No." He patted her down. He told her she was "under arrest" and handcuffed her. He never told her what she was under arrest for. He told her to lean against the police cruiser while handcuffed.

The officer then claimed he smelled something "funny" in my niece's car and began to search it thoroughly. It was obvious he was looking for drugs. When he could not find anything, he returned to my niece, uncuffed her and let her drive away. Apparently she wasn't under "arrest" at all. She did not even get so much as a traffic ticket out of the encounter.

A side note. Last week, I was at a jury trial where a police officer stopped someone (also white) under suspicion of drunk driving and proceeded to tear apart the car looking for drugs. Supposedly it was the policy of the IMPD to do this search under the guise of an "inventory search." Of course the officer did not have an inventory form nor did he conduct any list of what he found in the vehicle as one does with an inventory. It was nothing more than an illegal search for drugs that was called an "inventory search" to try to get around the 4th Amendment probable cause requirement.

Returning to my niece's experience with the IMPD officer, it was clear that my niece was stopped solely because she was the wrong skin color for that neighborhood. My niece is not the only young white woman this officer has stopped for being in that neighborhood. In fact this same officer has pulled over my niece's friend who lives in the predominantly black neighborhood. She now carries with her mail showing her address in the neighborhood.

For a white person, what happened to my niece is an unusual experience. But for a black person, being stopped for driving through a white neighborhood is a common experience. Many whites do not seem to understand why many African-Americans are often skeptical about police conduct. Blacks on the other hand do not understand why many whites have a tendency to reflexively believe the police officer did nothing wrong, even before learning the facts of the case.
Certainly there is a happy medium between the two views. There are good, dedicated police officers who follow the rules and then there are officers like the IMPD officer who stopped my niece - a man who is completely clueless to legal concepts like probable cause and the legal basis needed to conduct a search of a vehicle.

In the end, the IMPD officer is probably going to regret his fake "arrest" of my niece. My niece is a smart young lady and knows that what he did is improper. I doubt that she or her uncle is going to let this matter rest until the IMPD officer is at the very least reprimanded. Unfortunately not everyone who has been pulled over by this IMPD officer has the ability to fight back that my niece has.

New Update: In a previous update, I listed the name of the person who was identified as the police officer who conducted the stop. Apparently, the officer who was identified and the actual officer look very similiar. The misidentified officer's name has been removed. While I still criticize the stop as being highly inappropriate, I apologize to the misidentified officer.

15 comments:

Advance Indiana said...

This isn't the first time this has happened, Paul. A friend of mine had a similar experience. I blogged about it here: http://advanceindiana.blogspot.com/2008/07/stopped-while-driving-white-in-black.html

Indy Student said...

Paul, you should have a good, long talk to your niece about how to conduct one's self with the police. I know it can be very intimidating and nerve wracking, even if the officer doesn't intend it to be. But it's important she know her 4th and 5th amendment rights, especially when it comes to officers asking seemingly small questions, and never consent to a search without a warrant.

varangianguard said...

With actual cause, a male officer "patting" down a female without a female officer present is likely just a cheap thrill experience for the officer.

I would raise cain if my daughter was treated in that manner.

And, if there is a dashboard camera, the City would be losing some more tax monies for bad police behavior.

Diana Vice said...

I'd demand a lot more than an apology. The officer in question should get a pink slip. This man's actions will always be in question now.

Paul K. Ogden said...

IS, She didn't consent to the search. He just took her out of the car and just started searching.

She told me she was very polite to the officer. He just couldn't just accept that she, a young white girl, was in that that mostly African-American neighborhood for any other reason than to use or buy drugs.

AI, I'll look back at that blog post. One wonders what Chief Spears is telling his officers. The Supreme Court stopped the random stops for drug searches they used to do. One wonders if this is what they're doing instead.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I should have said a young white "woman."

Paul K. Ogden said...
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varangianguard said...

He's seems to have found a behavorial niche, where if he stops enough people in his little area he's bound by probability to strike true occasionally.

If that is in the Northwest District, I find that District's leadership to be too lenient in police practices.

Results (of any fashion) seem to matter over procedure, standards or whatever the Mayor thinks is going on.

I hope she complains. Too often the women are too intimidated to complain (and even when they do).

Paul K. Ogden said...
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Claudia Beck Treacy said...

Paul, What a sad situation.I truly feel sadness for your niece. Your niece is actually lucky she was released. More and more people, both men and women, have had to go though what your niece did.

Many police officers are OK and do try to do their job; however, more and more new recruits are taught to make as many arrests as possible to bring $$ into city coffers.

Police officers are becoming the "highwaymen" of olden days. I for one stay home. I used to love to go places.

If we together do not stop this type of abuse of police power, I guarantee soon anyone stopped WILL be accused of committing a crime. It is the cops word against a civilian. As you know, juries believe the word of a machine over anything. Next we will have "robo cops." No one will disbelieve a Robocop!

Indy Student said...

I'm surprised someone hasn't just dedicated an entire blog to IMPD and Sheriff abuse.

spooknp said...

He told her she was "under arrest" and handcuffed her. He never told her what she was under arrest for. He told her to lean against the police cruiser while handcuffed.

The officer then claimed he smelled something "funny" in my niece's car and began to search it thoroughly. It was obvious he was looking for drugs. When he could not find anything, he returned to my niece, uncuffed her and let her drive away. Apparently she wasn't under "arrest" at all.


Anytime a person is detained by legal authority, they have been arrested. Too many people believe that a person lawfully detained under reasonable suspicion is not under arrest because sometimes they are let loose after their ID is determined and the officer must let the person go (can't arrest on certain misdemeanors) or for further investigation. An arrest usually means being taken to jail, but really all the term means is that your freedom of movement has been restricted in some fashion.

Since I wasn't present at the incident, I can't comment on if it was proper or not. Obviously there are two sides to every story and I imagine if a lawsuit is filed, things will play out to some conclusion.

If we together do not stop this type of abuse of police power, I guarantee soon anyone stopped WILL be accused of committing a crime. It is the cops word against a civilian. As you know, juries believe the word of a machine over anything. Next we will have "robo cops." No one will disbelieve a Robocop!

The answer is recordings. With digital recording devices getting smaller and smaller, it should be easy enough to conceal a digital recorder and/or camera.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Spook, I totally don't agree. You are equating detention with "arrest" and that's not the case.

The term "arrest" means you are accused of committing a crime and have been detained for that violation. My niece was not under "arrest" as the officer never identified a crime she committed.

You can be handcuffed without being "arrested." Reasons include the security of the officer or the person is a danger to themselves or the person is emotionally out of control. That doesn't mean they are "arrested."

Jon said...
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Michael said...
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