Philly Police: We Promise To Continue To Violate Your Rights

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

My first reaction to this story was, “Unbelievable.”

My second reaction was that, sadly, it is entirely believable.

With a shocking altercation between Philadelphia police and a 25-year-old IT worker putting the spotlight back on open-carry gun laws, local authorities are warning gun owners that they will be “inconvenienced” if they carry unconcealed handguns in the city.

Lt. Raymond Evers, a spokesman for the city police, told FoxNews.com that gun owners who open carry, which is legal in the city, may be asked to lay on the ground until officers feel safe while they check permits.

Let’s be clear here. Regardless of how you feel about guns, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that gun ownership is a right protected by the Constitution. Under Pennsylvania law, it is perfectly legal to open carry. So Lt. Evers is openly, publicly, and without any apparent shame promising that if gun owners exercise their constitutional rights in Philadelphia in a manner that is well within the confines of the law, they can expect a violent confrontation with police.

As I explained in my post on Philadelphia DA R. Seth Williams, this is a knowing, premeditated, intentional violation of the constitutional rights of people who live in or visit Philadelphia.

So where is the Justice Department?


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81 Responses to “Philly Police: We Promise To Continue To Violate Your Rights”

  1. #1 |  CyniCAl | 

    Or DWB … Driving While Black.

  2. #2 |  J.S. | 

    “I don’t think it’s moronic to want to live where people don’t need to be “deterred” by display of deadly weapons. I mean, this is Philadelphia, not frikking Somalia.

    And if you are openly displaying a deadly weapon, you are also asserting you are ready to use it to kill. Otherwise, it’s just an ornament, not a deterrence at all. ”

    No Philly isn’t Mogadishu but its certainly no longer filled with “brotherly love”.

    As for your second notion Diva, the second ammendment puts all citizens on equal footing to defend themselves, not just the vaunted police.

  3. #3 |  demize! | 

    For you hipsters carrying open is very DIY man. That and Pabst Blue Ribbon and apparently Track Bikes. Fyi. Im a long time brakeless track bike rider, very un hipster, Philly is one of the few places that have a law that there must be at least one brake on your bike. Im not sure if their police are more or less nasty to riders than here in NY. I wouldn’t be surprised but can’t imagine it. But seriously I wouldn’t entrust my life to a cop if I was in mortal danger.

  4. #4 |  Bergman | 

    Re: EH, #3:

    To which I’d point out, that 18USC242 describes a crime that private citizens are incapable of committing. Police don’t have qualified immunity from prosecution under a criminal offense that only a public official (such as a police officer) can commit.

  5. #5 |  croaker | 

    “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” John F Kennedy, 1962.

    @35 Yes, and as a person who grew up in the area, I wouldn’t mind if a commando raid removed it from the city until this crap stopped.

    @47 Been happening for years, and is the subject of a lawsuit. This is also the same street gang that trashed/stole from small stores after cutting the camera wires.

    @50 Yes, PA State Police have fallen far from the days when they were considered, at least by H. Beam Piper, one of the top ten constabulary formations in the world.

  6. #6 |  JOR | 

    “My question is, what do you think the cop should have done instead?”

    I dunno. Should cops stop and harass people driving around normally and safely in accordance with traffic rules and not harming or endangering anyone? Cars are extremely dangerous and deadly pieces of hardware, after all.

  7. #7 |  Eddie | 

    @JOR – you appear to have missed the point entirely.

    So you are saying, then, that if a cop sees someone walking around with a gun hanging out of his pocket, he should simply do nothing? I just want to be clear about what you are saying here.

  8. #8 |  jlap | 

    eddie… that works just fine where I live (Portsmouth NH). It also works well in Dutchess County NY where I grew up, as well as myriad of other places which allow open or concealed carry. It sounds like you intend that question to be theoretical, but in a large portion of the country that is exactly what happens.

    and to speak further of your hypothetical situation, how is asking (or yelling at someone) to get on the ground less likely to elicit a violent response on the part of a criminal than asking for documentation?

  9. #9 |  Flint | 

    @M. Steve: Thank you, sir.

    @Eddie: If the cops could just stop anyone, at any time, and do a body-cavity search, I’ll guarantee you that it would reduce crime. But it would be a blatant human rights violation.

    Back when I took law, we were taught that the requirement for a stop was a reasonable, articulable suspicion or belief that a crime was being committed. Not, “well, he looked like he might be a criminal.” The cop has to be able to articulate specific facts that made him believe the individual in question is committing (or about to commit) a crime, and that belief must be objectively-reasonable.

    Merely carrying a gun does not qualify, or they would never get out of the station in the morning, because they’d be too busy frisking each other. Sure, someone carrying a gun “might” be out to commit a crime, but lots of folks “might” be, as well. Young black males are statistically more likely to be criminals, so is it okay if cops just stop them and toss them on the ground while checking their papers? It’s probably more reasonable than going after gun owners (you’re statistically more likely to be wrongfully shot by a cop, than an ordinary gun owner). But it’s wrong, in either case.

    Now, if you see someone with a gun, wearing a ski mask, casing a liquor store, then there is a reasonable, articulable belief that that individual is up to no good. Most crooks don’t calmly walk down the street with holstered pistols. Other than the crooks with badges, anyway.

  10. #10 |  RWW | 

    The best answer to this issue, if one must live in a place like Philadelphia, seems pretty simple: ignore the law and carry concealed. Not only does it avoid problems with the police (unless you have really bad luck or poor judgement), but I think it puts you in a much better strategic position with regard to the kind of violent criminal that doesn’t wear a uniform.

  11. #11 |  Eddie | 

    @Flint
    It seems that your law class did not cover the DeBour standard, which set out different levels that the police can stop and question someone at. There are levels below reasonable suspicion, where police officers can legally stop people and ask them for their name, ID, and a reasonable explanation of their conduct, without necessarily having an indication of criminal activity.

    In Terry v. Ohio, Officer McFadden had a lot less than a guy with a ski mask standing outside a store, yet the Supreme Court found that he was justified in his actions, leading to what is known today as the stop question and frisk.

    As far as your statistics, I’d be interested in knowing where you got them from, because the statistics I am looking at say that approximately 360 people are killed each year by law enforcement (including justified and not) while over 31,000 people each year are killed by guns overall.

    It seems to me that you are effectively arguing that Philadelphia should not be able to enforce its law that those carrying weapons must have permits to do so, since the police shouldn’t ever be allowed to ask anyone for their permit.

  12. #12 |  JOR | 

    “So you are saying, then, that if a cop sees someone walking around with a gun hanging out of his pocket, he should simply do nothing?”

    Well certainly someone missed someone’s point. If the only thing notable about the person is that they’re carrying a handgun, then yes, that’s precisely what he should do. Cars are at least as dangerous as handguns (and in practical terms kill far more people), and cops don’t (or at least shouldn’t) randomly stop people who are driving just to check their licenses.

    Besides, someone up to no good will most likely be hiding any weapons they’re carrying. Or trying to.

  13. #13 |  JOR | 

    Of course, if we’re asking, not what the cops should do, but what they are legally allowed to do, well, in purely practical terms they can get away with outright highway robbery, assault and battery, kidnapping, and cold-blooded murder. And as a legal nihilist, I’d say that “what they can get away with” is identical to “what they are legally allowed to do”.

  14. #14 |  “Good God, y’all” — Kayak2U Blog | 

    […] of many from Balko: [A] knowing, premeditated, intentional violation of the constitutional rights of people who live […]

  15. #15 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Re: #53:

    Requiring vehicles operated on public rights-of-way to be equipped with brakes does not strike me as regulatory oppression or overreach, but brakes are no substitute for giving a rat’s ass about anyone else on the streets. Which the hipster bike couriers in Center City Philly generally do not. Brakeless bikes are a symptom of bad bicycling etiquette, not a cause. Actually, calling it “etiquette” doesn’t really do justice to the goal of not being run over on a sidewalk by some disingenuous asshole in a scarf and skinny jeans who hasn’t had a square meal in a week.

    I love the DIY PBR image. Anyone who drinks that shit twice is mentally ill. All the same, if anyone in Northern Liberties is looking to homebrew a batch, I can recommend some monitoring wells near Aramingo Avenue whose water would be suitable. Throw in a shovel full of the so-called soil from the vicinity and you’ll be sure to get that authentic boiled-in-a-leaded-tin-kettle taste.

  16. #16 |  Andrew Roth | 

    When I lived in Philly the police seemed pretty relaxed around bicyclists. I rode a lot and never had trouble with cops there. I wasn’t aware of other cyclists being targeted by the police, either, even though, as I mentioned, the hell on wheels crowd downtown was asking for trouble.

  17. #17 |  cobaco | 

    [quote]My question is, what do you think the cop should have done instead?

    Let’s say you’re a police officer patrolling a street, and you see a man with a gun sticking out of his pocket. You have no idea if this guy is a law-abiding citizen with a valid permit or a violent criminal with a warrant out for his arrest or a mentally ill individual who happened to get his hands on a weapon.
    [/quote]

    well given that every cop falls in the category of ‘man walking around with a gun’ and cops dont have a problem with other cops that should be obvious, but let me spell it out
    ‘innocent till proven guilty’, ergo in absense of the guy with the gun actually using the gun to pose a threat you leave him alone

    [quote]
    What do you think the cop should do? Ignore it and let the guy continue walking around with a gun? Tap him on the shoulder and say “Excuse me sir, do you have a permit for that?” and hope that the guy falls into the first category rather than the second or third and hope that he doesn’t see a cop and think “I’m not going back to prison!” and start firing?
    [/quote]

    read up on the tueller drill if the gun is holstered, there’s no safety problem, he tries to pull his gun when you’re next to him and you knock him out (or quite simply block his hand so the gun cant clear the holster.

    [quote]
    And if he says “Yes I have a permit,” the cop should just take his word for it and say “Ok then, have a nice day”?
    [/quote]

    well what happens if a cop asks for your driverslicence? you show it to him, same thing oughta happen here.

    [quote[
    What exactly do you propose that a cop in this situation do that doesn’t endanger his safety or the safety of bystanders?
    [/quote]

    lets see, your proposed (and actual) cop response does the following:
    1) it escalates a peaceful situation to a ‘threat of leathal force confrontation
    2) you’re making a threat of leathal force against someone who has the means to respond in kind, ergo you risk starting a firefight in a public place

    now please explain how that is in any way shape or form is a respone that ‘doesnt endanger his safety or the safety of bystanders’?

  18. #18 |  solinox | 

    When places pass (or even try to pass) rules restricting breastfeeding in public, pro-breastfeeding organizations stage “nurse-ins”, where they try to get as many women as possible to show up at the same time and all nurse their children in public.

    Just thinking this would be an interesting tactic to take against something like this. What would this police department do if hundreds or thousands of licensed, legal gun owners decided to show up together at a park or something, openly carrying? And can we script in advance the words they will use to justify their actions?

  19. #19 |  Flint | 

    @Eddie: Reasonable, articulable suspicion is from Terry. That’s what defines a lawful Terry stop, versus an unlawful detention.

    Yes, they can step in there and ask you who you are and what you’re up to, with less than RAS. So can I. Or anyone else, for that matter. But, to be a lawful detention, where they can physically hold you, they must meet RAS. If a cop approaches you on the street, the first question should always be, “am I free to go?” The only way he can lawfully answer anything other than, “yes,” is if he has met RAS.

    I’m not going to go into more detail with the statistics, as it’s getting to be a tangent. Feel free to do more research, though, if you like.

    As for your last paragraph, it’s no different than any other license-required situation. They cannot just pull drivers over to check their papers, even though they are obviously driving a car. There must be a reasonable cause for the stop. And, even then, the only reason they are allowed to demand a license be produced, is because the law explicitly says so. Last I checked, no one is arguing that Philly’s gun licensing law contains an explicit exception allowing police to demand licenses without full cause.

    If they have RAS to stop and search someone, they can then check if he has a valid license for his gun. But they cannot do “spot checks” of innocent passers-by, “just in case.”

  20. #20 |  Mike T | 

    Eddie,

    Let’s say you’re a police officer patrolling a street, and you see a man with a gun sticking out of his pocket. You have no idea if this guy is a law-abiding citizen with a valid permit or a violent criminal with a warrant out for his arrest or a mentally ill individual who happened to get his hands on a weapon.

    There are two distinctions here, from a law enforcement perspective. Police are supposed to profile in cases like this because people (whether liberals and libertarians want to admit that we’re not all individual snowflakes or not) tend to fit fairly well into categories. If the gun owner is carrying it in a holster, odds are very high that the man is a law-abiding gun owner. If he’s carrying it in his pants, like a gang-banger, the proper interaction would be:

    1. “Sir, do you have a permit to carry that weapon?”
    2. “Please reach slowly for you permit, sir.”
    3. Permit? “Thank you sir. Have a nice day.” No permit? Enforce the law.
    4. Radio other cops in the area to report the man’s description and inform them that if other cops see him, he is in fact obeying the law.

    At no point should a cop force him to the ground unless he refuses to show his permit.

  21. #21 |  BoogaFrito | 

    #22 divadab
    I don’t think it’s moronic to want to live where people don’t need to be “deterred” by display of deadly weapons. I mean, this is Philadelphia, not [fucking] Somalia.

    The solution then would be to move out of Philadelphia. Outlawing the “display of deadly weapons” doesn’t make the city any safer for law-abiding citizens; it simply makes them more likely to become victims of crime. Criminals will still be carrying their guns, as only in your delusional lollipops-and-rainbows imagination would a law outlawing open carry deter a rapist/murderer/mugger from concealing a pistol beneath his baggy sweatshirt or inside his backpack.

    #57 Eddie
    So you are saying, then, that if a cop sees someone walking around with a gun hanging out of his pocket, he should simply do nothing?

    Yes, that’s the whole point of allowing people to openly carry handguns. Perhaps if guns were a more common accessory for the non-criminal citizen on the go (coming soon: the Apple iGat), you wouldn’t be so helplessly terrified by the thought of seeing someone carrying one on the street.

  22. #22 |  Gil | 

    Divadab’s right the open carrying of a gun is projection of the desire to main or kill – you’re sending a message you’re not going a sucker who timidly hand over money and then get pistol-whipped by muggers but you’re going to defend yourself with no-nonsense force. If you don’t have the guts to use a gun then there’s no point in owning one – the muggers will immediate pick up on your wussiness and take the gun you and use it against you.

    On the other hand, do courts really say guns are an unregulated right? I’ve never heard of a court decision in which owning, carrying and using a gun is unlimited to which no government can take away.

  23. #23 |  Flint | 

    Gil, no, there’s no “desire” to maim or kill. I don’t carry a gun because I want to maim or kill someone who attacks me. I carry a gun because I want (and intend to) stop him from attacking me. If he’s smart, he’ll immediately stop, slowly drop whatever weapon he has, and behave calmly. I won’t feel let down because I didn’t get to shoot him. My sole intent is to stop his attack. Whether he walks away without a scratch, is wounded, permanently disabled, or dead, are all things he has more of a say in than I do, at that point.

    I’m willing to maim or kill him, if he chooses for the interaction to do that way, but all I’m thinking of is stopping him. If you actually want to hurt others, you probably shouldn’t carry a gun.

    As far as your other question, no, the courts do not say that. But they do put limits on what the government may do. I happen to disagree with them, as the Constitution is quite clear on the matter (except to those who willfully ignore English grammar, and attempt to claim that it says things other than what it says in actual, proper English), but that’s neither here nor there in this case, as what Philly is doing violates even the restrictive rulings made by the courts.

  24. #24 |  demize! | 

    #66 Andrew the NYPD have taken upon themselves to enforce laws that do not exist. They are citing riders for not wearing helmets. There is no law that compells one to wear one. They are ticketing for carrying items on your bicycle. Generally they have a hard on for cyclists that must come from command and trickles down to tour officers. They have been harrassing Critical Mass for years. Famous footage of the Iraqi war vet getting body slammed by rookie imbecile etc.

  25. #25 |  Dylboz | 

    “If you want to play cowboy, move to Arizona.”

    Yes, because we respect the Second Amendment, and would never call a cop on a guy for open carry. I do it all the time. The cops here have a saying. “Bad guys don’t wear holsters.” Cops are more likely to just chat with you about shooting or what type of gun you carry, if they say anything to you at all. Same is true of most civilians.

    Contrary to what those of you on the east coast imagine, it is actually quite possible for an openly carried firearm to NOT be an incitement, nor a threat. Your neighbors CAN be trusted with the responsibility (just as they can be trusted to drive cars) of owning and carrying a firearm without using it for malice.

    Really.

  26. #26 |  Dylboz | 

    “Yes, that’s the whole point of allowing people to openly carry handguns. Perhaps if guns were a more common accessory for the non-criminal citizen on the go (coming soon: the Apple iGat), you wouldn’t be so helplessly terrified by the thought of seeing someone carrying one on the street.”

    ^^^ A THOUSAND TIMES THIS!!!

  27. #27 |  Flint | 

    Hey, don’t be painting the east coast with broad brush, there. New Hampshire is the most gun-friendly state in the entire US.

  28. #28 |  Non Sub Homine? | 

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