Suppression victory limits police intrusion

Attorney Lown’s motion to suppress win in Boston’s downtown district court underscored an important fact: police officers do not have authority to stop and frisk someone merely because they seem “suspicious.” Lown’s client was just 17 when an assailant shot him. The DA’s office considered him a victim at the time. Sometime later officers claimed that he matched a vague description given of a suspect and that a different individual the client was with was a supposed gang member. The officers seized him on the street, searched him and claimed that he was carrying a gun. Years back, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts condemned the Boston Police Department’s 1980s policy to “search on sight” all young Black persons suspected of gang involvement. In 2014, BPD hired their own analyst who reviewed over 200,000 reports, an analysis of which reveals vast racial disparities. For the 204,000-plus reports that were completed, only 2.5% indicate that officers seized weapons, drugs or other contraband, and the majority did not result in an arrest. In this case, Attorney Lown cross-examined four officers at a 4-hour hearing. Ultimately, Judge Cathleen Byrne ruled that the officers crossed a line. She found that the officers lacked sufficient justification beyond a mere hunch to search Lown’s client and that the Constitution demanded that the evidence be suppressed.

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