GOPer Proposes Bill That Allows Cops To Detain Anyone Who Might Commit A Crime

Darren.Woon

A pending Kentucky bill would extend the powers of the police to the worry of civil rights lawyers and activists.

A bill pending in the Kentucky Senate would grant police the power to stop people on the street and demand that they identify themselves and explain their actions or face detention. Civil rights lawyers argue that it would be an unconstitutional law likely used against minority groups, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.

Under Senate Bill 89, if a police officer suspects someone in a public place is involved in criminal activity or is about to commit a crime, the officer could stop that person, demand their name, home address, and age, and tell them to explain what they are presently doing “to the satisfaction of the officer.”

Anyone who refuses to cooperate with police could be detained for up to two hours, but that detention would not be considered an arrest and the person would not have the right to call an attorney.

Sen. Stephen Meredith (R-Leitchfield) said Grayson County law enforcement officers asked him to propose the bill after several local incidents showed the need for it.

In one case, a man was lurking outside an apartment complex which prompted concerned residents to call the police. He refused to tell the officers who he was or why he was there. According to Meredith, he simply walked away and police later discovered the man’s identity and realized he had several outstanding arrest warrants.

Critics argue that Meredith’s bill would violate the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure and the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination.

Aaron Tucek, a legal fellow at the ACLU of Kentucky, said that while police officers can approach people on the street and ask their names, citizens can refuse to respond. If police can show reasonable suspicion that someone is carrying a deadly weapon, they can proceed to frisk them.

But police cannot detain people for not identifying themselves or explaining their activities, “to the satisfaction of the officer,” Tucek said.

“The whole section of the bill on detention -- they can call it whatever they want, but Supreme Court case law is pretty clear that an arrest is not determined by whether you call it an arrest, it’s determined by the restraint you place on someone’s liberty,” Tucek said. “If you put someone in the back of a police car or if you take them down to the police station or if you otherwise refuse to let them go their own way, that’s an arrest, and in our country, you cannot do that without probable cause.”

Rebecca DiLoreto, who lobbies in Frankfort for the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said that police in Meredith’s Senate district could have confronted the man lurking outside the apartment complex on a loitering charge. But to allow police to stop, interrogate, and hold people on the street more generally would be a grave error.

“The idea that we can detain people because we find them to be suspicious and we think they might commit a crime, that crosses a dangerous line,” DiLoreto said. “Now, unfortunately, it has been known to happen. Sometimes it’s in a mostly white community where someone spots a black person walking down the street and they get suspicious and call the police.”

“The potential for abuse in that seems obvious,” she added. DiLoreto voiced her concerns with the bill, specifically in that no official records would be kept in the detention process.

“That’s starting to approach what you see in a police state or Soviet Russia,” DiLoreto said.

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