Black men may have a legitimate reason to flee Boston police during investigatory or “Terry” stops, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled Tuesday.
The court found that systemic racism in the Boston Police Department may be considered in conjunction with a suspect’s decision to flee from police during a stop.
A Terry stop, named for the U.S. Supreme Court case which sanctioned the practice, refers to a brief detention and search of an individual due to reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct.
The court writes:
We do not eliminate flight as a factor in the reasonable suspicion analysis whenever a black male is the subject of an investigatory stop. However, in such circumstances, flight is not necessarily probative of a suspect’s state of mind or consciousness of guilt. Rather, the finding that black males in Boston are disproportionately and repeatedly targeted for FIO encounters suggests a reason for flight totally unrelated to consciousness of guilt. Such an individual, when approached by the police, might just as easily be motivated by the desire to avoid the recurring indignity of being racially profiled as by the desire to hide criminal activity. Given this reality for black males in the city of Boston, a judge should, in appropriate cases, consider the report’s findings in weighing flight as a factor in the reasonable suspicion calculus.