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Monday, August 01, 2016

Reforming the police by focusing on the courts

Matthew Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, has written an interesting op-ed in the Guardian in which he argues that many of the concerns that the Black Lives Matter movement has about police violence and the need for police reform are the result of court decisions in Fourth Amendment cases. In his words: "Courts have shaped American policing by defanging the fourth amendment’s prohibition on 'unreasonable searches and seizures.'"

It's also interesting to see this coming just after the establishment of the bi-partisan Fourth Amendment Caucus in the US House of Representatives. The Fourth Amendment covers a wide swath of law enforcement action, of course, but it does appear that most of the comments I've seen about the caucus are either broad statements about protecting civil liberties or limiting mass surveillance (EFF). The clearest exception to this in the Caucus's press release was the statement from Malkia Cyril (Co-Founder and Executive Director, Center for Media Justice; Member of the Caucus's Steering Committee): "In an era of escalating police violence, Black communities urgently need political leadership to protect us from illegal search and seizure, invasions of privacy, and other Fourth Amendment violations."

With Supreme Court decisions (many cited by Segal in his op-ed) restricting the ability of lower courts to give the Fourth Amendment its "fangs" back (to use Segal's language), I wonder whether something like the Fourth Amendment Caucus will actually do something to address the Fourth Amendment's impact on day-to-day policing in communities across the country.

Posted by Bryce C. Newell on August 1, 2016 at 12:00 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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