Ernst Rohm Would Be So Proud

I have commented here previously about how the bureaucrats have taken over police administrations and that is a bad thing.  I have observed, over the years, that the first thing every wide spot in the road that incorporates into a city or town wants to do is establish a police force.  To me this isn’t about public safety but the projection of power.  

All police forces are confronted with requests by the politicians to implement some program or target a segment of society that has incurred their displeasure.  Up until the time of the civil rights movement, this was normal “order maintenance” policing.  Over the last forty years police executives have learned how to say no to such requests, not all the time, but often enough. 

Some of the credit for the change goes to the Warren Court and the adoption of a variety of search and seizure cases in the mid to late 1960’s.  I was brought up with “Miranda”, “Mapp”, “Terry” and a host of others and kept up with their progeny.  I understand the method espoused and have no problem following the rules.

Unfortunately University police departments are less able than their municipal counterparts to withstand pressure.  Along comes the University of Missouri Police Department (UMPDand forty years of search and seizure law goes right down the crapper (See link). For those of you who spent $100,000 for a degree on “Left Handed Queer Studies” and discovered there is no market for your degree, I am going to give you a roadmap to wealth, fame and fortune.

First, you have to move to whatever godforsaken burg is saddled with UM.  Do not go on campus.  Make sure that you have absolutely no affiliation with campus.  Next, go out and buy the most offensive t-shirt you can find. Chances are Missouri has statutes governing disorderly conduct, harassment, threats and assault. You might want to consult these statutes when buying your t-shirt, making sure that it does not violate state statute. Hurtful speech as defined by the University is not a violation of law. Put it on, never take it off, go about your normal day.  If you are impatient you can stroll the border streets at the edge of campus, just don’t go on campus.

If you are fortunate, somebody will report you for “hurtful speech” and UMPD will be on the lookout.  It may help to maintain a schedule so that if the UMPD officer misses you today, he can find you tomorrow.  A little further prep is called for, check Missouri law.  In Texas, for example, a person is not required to provide identification or otherwise identify themselves unless they are a suspect or witness to an offense. Missouri statute will dictate what you must do in a police encounter.

When the officer finds you be polite. It is important to point out at the outset that you do not regard this contact to be consensual. Ask him if you are free to go. The officer will attempt to identify you and determine your motivation.  Do not cooperate.  Remember in all likelihood this contact is being recorded.  Try standing in front of the patrol car, about five feet off the bumper and on the sidewalk. Keep you hands out of your pockets, do not wave them around and try to appear reasonable. If you are arrested, smile, cooperate fully and keep your mouth shut (other than to answer questions related to booking).

Why do all this?  UMPD, go back to the link, has instituted a policy that their officers are authorized to stop and identify people that may have engaged in “hurtful speech”.  Peace officers can stop a person in certain specific instances: (1) they have a reasonable suspicion to believe that the individual is or has been engaged in a violation (Terry V Ohio).  They observe a person committing an offense in their presence or view, (state statute), they observe a person engaged in the immediate flight from a breech of the peace or felony, (state statute) or both parties agree to the contact.  All of the preceding are criminal violations. Hurtful speech, not prohibited by Missouri statute is “free speech,” it may be in poor taste but it is not criminal conduct.

UMPD will argue that they have an obligation to follow University rules. I don’t buy this. Even if they win this argument I believe that they would have to establish that the person stopped was subject to those rules either by the location (on University property) or affiliation (employment or enrollment).

What does all this mean?  We have the press release and guiding memos telling UMPD officers to ignore what they know about search and seizure law and state statute. In the example I have outlined, we have an officer initiating a stop without reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a crime has been committed.  The officer continues the illegal stop after being informed that this is not consensual in nature.  If there is no legal basis for the stop, any arrest arising from the stop is tainted. This has all the makings of a 1983 civil rights lawsuit.

Don’t believe me? Here is a statement from  ACLU Missouri.  

My second get rich scheme is to corner the market on brown shirts and jodhpurs and set up a booth.  Can anybody direct me to the safe area?