The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that black men who flee the police should not be considered suspicious for evading police, as they may have legitimate reason to do so. According to WBUR in Boston, the court made the ruling based on statistics that demonstrate black men are disproportionately stopped by police in Boston.
The court included the legitimacy of police evasion by black men when it threw out a gun conviction against Jimmy Warren this week. Warren was stopped by police in 2011 while they were searching for suspects in a robbery break-in. Using the information that the suspects were three black men wearing a red hoodie, a black hoodie, and dark clothing, police approached Warren and a friend, who ran. Warren was arrested, and a police search did not find evidence he was connected to the break-in, but they found an unlicensed .22 rifle, and Warren was charged.
According to its ruling, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court determined that "the police had far too little information to support an individualized suspicion that the defendant had committed the breaking and entering," concluding that Warren should not have been considered a suspect and approached by officers. The ruling also stated that the description of the suspects was so vague (referring to the clothing referenced as "ubiquitous"), that Warren was only stopped on an ultimately unjusitifed "hunch."
Matthew Segal, the legal director of the ACLU's Massachusetts chapter, called the ruling "powerful," adding that it is important for courts to clarify what makes a person "suspicious," WBUR reports. "The state’s highest court, in talking about people of color, it’s saying that their lives matter and under the law, their views matter," he said. "The reason that’s significant is that all the time in police-civilian encounters there are disputes about what is suspicious and what is not suspicious. So this is an opinion that looks at those encounters through the eyes of a black man who might justifiably be concerned that he will be the victim of profiling."