Mass. Supreme Court Says Black Men May Be Justified in Fleeing From Police

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled earlier this week that just because a person flees from police that does not constitute a presumption of guilt. In particular, the court stated that black men who fled from police had a particular reason to fear being unfairly targeted by law enforcement.

The case referenced the December 18, 2011 arrest of Jimmy Warren. Warren was stopped by a Boston police officer who was investigating a robbery. Warren fled on foot but was later captured and charged with possession of an unregistered handgun.

The court cited the lack of specific information tying Warren to the earlier robbery and then issued the following statement regarding his flight:

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.”
— Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court


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