Philosopher to Sue NYC Police for 4th Amendment Violation


Damion Scott, a PhD student in philosophy at SUNY Stony Brook and an adjunct professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, claims his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches was violated, as was a city code against racial-profiling, by two New York City police officers, according to an article in The New York Times (via Shelley Tremain at Discrimination and Disadvantage).

From the NYT:

On Tuesday, a lawyer for Mr. Scott, an adjunct lecturer at John Jay and the City College of New York, sent a notice of claim to the city comptroller, a preliminary step to filing a lawsuit. The lawyer, Gabriel P. Harvis, said he planned to file a suit in Federal District Court in Manhattan saying that the officers had violated Mr. Scott’s Fourth Amendment rights and a city code that forbids bias-based profiling…

Mr. Scott, 42, said that on Saturday he and his fiancée, Akiko Suematsu, had gone onto the roof of a six-story building on Riverside Drive near 151st Street where he has subleased an apartment for about 16 months. A roof door accidentally closed, he said, locking them outside.

He signaled to a resident whom he was able to glimpse through a window, Mr. Scott said, and shouted to a man whom he recognized on an open sixth-floor breezeway, asking for help. After about 20 minutes, he said, two plainclothes officers wearing shields on lanyards arrived.

Mr. Scott said he thanked them for opening the roof door, but was surprised when they ordered him to stand against a wall. He said he told the officers he lived in the building and showed them his passport, but was told it was not valid identification because it did not list a home address. The officers again ordered him to stand facing a wall, he said, with one announcing that he would be searched.

Mr. Scott said he told the officer he lacked probable cause. When asked if he was a lawyer, he said, he replied that he taught at John Jay.

After a back and forth about whether he was permitted to be on the roof, Mr. Scott said that an officer handcuffed and searched him, saying that he was guilty of trespassing. He said the officer used profanity and asked several times, “Who do you know now who can help you?”

The officer threatened repeatedly to bring him to jail, Mr. Scott said, but released him without charges about 15 minutes after handcuffing him.

More information here.

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the Onion Man
the Onion Man
5 years ago

Because if a man you don’t recognize is gesticulating at you from your rooftop, and you call the police, the only possible explanation is racism.Report

Simon Evnine
Simon Evnine
Reply to  the Onion Man
5 years ago

The behavior of the man gesticulated at from the roof is not under discussion here and his state of mind and motives are entirely immaterial to the issue of police conduct.Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
Reply to  Simon Evnine
5 years ago

…because if the police receive a call that there’s a strange person on the roof, where no one is allowed, and the identification he produces doesn’t establish that he lives in the building, and they treat him as a potential trespassing suspect, the only possible explanation is racism.Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  the Onion Man
5 years ago

I can tell you as a white woman based on my past experience with police, it would be utterly shocking to me if I were treated this way. I have done worse, and been treated better.Report

Alfred H MacDonald
Alfred H MacDonald
Reply to  Kathryn Pogin
5 years ago

the police have erred here in several key ways, but emotionally driven anecdotes are not needed to demonstrate this and is bad epistemic methodology.

a single person’s past experience is not enough to make generalizations. I’ve had mixed experience with police, and I can’t say police wouldn’t do this to me. but then, I also did not grow up in a middle or high SES and have grown up in a large city that is 28% white. regardless of how I feel about it, my experience does not allow any widespread conclusions, due to the number of variables affecting how I am treated.

also, white women tend to be treated more favorably than any other race/sex combination so favorable treatment for being a white woman would be true regardless of whether the alleged victim here were black, e.g.:

* most relevantly, since it deals with criminal sentencing: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2144002 but as a supplement there are also:
** https://dx.doi.org/10.1037%2F0022-3514.87.4.494 or http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:cDbKmkdoBRMJ:rutgerssocialcognitionlab.weebly.com/uploads/1/3/9/7/13979590/rudmangoodwin2004jpsp.pdf+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
** http://web.archive.org/web/20151218125727/http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21648632-recruitment-academic-scientists-may-be-skewed-surprising-way-unfairer
** http://www.mindingthecampus.org/2015/11/women-favored-2-to-1-in-stem-hiring/Report

Alfred H MacDonald
Alfred H MacDonald
Reply to  Alfred H MacDonald
5 years ago

(cannot edit comments here but “would be true” should have been “would be likely to be true”)Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
Reply to  Alfred H MacDonald
5 years ago

Well, I’m a white man, and I can say the same thing as Kathryn. By far the worst treatment I ever got from police was on my fourteenth birthday, when two friends and I were waiting on a sidewalk in front of a movie theater for my dad to pick me up. A cop drove up and told us to leave, and when I tried to explain that we were waiting for a ride, he screamed at us to get moving or we would be going to juvenile detention. And if you guessed that one of my friends was black (biracial black and Japanese, actually), then you know the first thing about how police treat people of different races in the US.

More to the point, and much more to the point than those last three links you provided that have nothing to do with police behavior, anyone who has paid the slightest bit of attention to these matters knows that police in general and New York City police in particular have an extensive record of unfair treatment of black people. Look up stop and frisk for one thing. So yes, when a black man is treated in an unfair and obviously disproportionate manner by an institution with a long, severe, and well-documented history of racism, the obvious explanation is racism.Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  Matt Weiner
5 years ago

“and much more to the point than those last three links you provided”

they’re about treatment biases, and treatment was used to generalize a response, so, yes, they’re second-response level relevant

anyway.

so instead of saying that maybe generalizing from personal experience is a bad idea, you gave a second personal experience vulnerable to the same demonstration of uselessness. great. you haven’t experienced police issues. maybe you’ve lived a really nice life and everyone else you know has too. maybe you go hard like a tube of toothpaste. I have no idea. no one else does either. this is why generalizing from personal experience is bad epistemic practice.

if you’re telling people to look up stop and frisk like this is new information, I don’t know how much you actually know. yes, the NYC police have a history of abuse toward blacks. and you’ve extrapolated from this and said that their reputation basically means the likely explanation (your words: “obvious explanation”) here is racism. this is extremely bad probabilistic reasoning, and probably the product of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Availability_heuristic since you’re using the first thing that came to mind as a basis for estimating probability.Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Alfred MacDonald
5 years ago

And generalizing from studies that don’t even clearly generalize to the phenomena they purport to be about is a good epistemic practice?Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  Alfred MacDonald
5 years ago

it’s not, which is why I didn’t do it. the first study supports my judgment, and the others were added for supplementary purposes to show that this bias exists elsewhere.

yes, I know what you’re trying to say. you can make that actual argument instead of expecting sarcasm to do the work for you.Report

Elizabeth
Reply to  Kathryn Pogin
5 years ago

I’m a white woman who has been treated terribly by police… but only when I’m at a protest.

I hope Scott wins his lawsuit.Report

Damion Scott
Damion Scott
5 years ago

Thank you for the support.Report