If you watch Cops, this blog post may be redundant. But for the few of you who do not, I am sure you have wondered what gives a police officer the right to initiate a frisk, search your vehicle, or enter your house without a search warrant. By the end of this, you will know what not to do to trigger a police officer’s suspicion.
It all begins with the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which says that people should be free from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” or those short of probable cause – “when the police reasonably believe that ‘an offense has been or is being committed.’” The Supreme Court carved out a narrow exception to this rule in Terry v. Ohio, which permitted limited searches (“frisks”) on the basis of reasonable suspicion, where “a reasonably prudent officer would be warranted in the belief . . . that he is dealing with an armed and dangerous individual.”
Since 2011, the NYPD conducted more than 514,000 frisks. 88% of those resulted in nothing: No ticket, no arrest. Around 85% of those stopped were black or Latino, who only comprise around 26% and 27% of the NYC population, respectively.
So what can you do to avoid being one of these statistics? Well, most obviously, avoid being a criminal. If you do that, you should be fine. However, if you are unlucky, here are some of the less obvious things police officers look for before a frisk (#1 and #2 being the most common justifications):
1. Actions Indicative of ‘Casing’ Victims or Location
2. Furtive Movements
3. Actions Indicative of Acting As A Lookout
4. Wearing Clothes/Disguises Commonly Used In Commission Of Crime