Loitering While Black

The new police chief of Bunnell, Florida likes to drive around town and introduce himself to people. And if those people are black, he likes to arrest them. To his way of thinking, they must be drug dealers.

On Feb. 7, Cecil Hubbert, a 21-year-old resident of Palm Coast who grew up in Bunnell, was walking to his aunt's house with Nateshawn Royal, his sister's boyfriend. Both men are black. Hubbert says Bunnell Police Chief Armando Martinez pulled up and at first said he was just introducing himself as the new police chief in town. ... Immediately, Hubbert says, the chief then accused him and Royal of being drug dealers prowling in "a known drug area," had them arrested on a charge of loitering and prowling, and confiscated the cash they carried. No drugs were found on them.

So much for probable cause. Being black in a "known drug area" is cause enough in Bunnell.

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    In Layman's terms..... (none / 0) (#1)
    by kdog on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 08:40:18 AM EST
    "Loitering"...somebody you don't like the look of sitting or standing in public.

    "Prowling"...somebody you don't like the look of walking around in public.

    How are these crimes at all in a free society?

    very good question (none / 0) (#2)
    by Deconstructionist on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 08:50:08 AM EST

    The linked article states the statute reads:

     "...unlawful for any person to loiter or prowl in a place, at a time or in a manner not usual for law-abiding individuals, under circumstances that warrant justifiable and reasonable alarm or immediate concern for the safety of persons or property in the vicinity."

      I'd think the statute would be subject to facial challenges as void for vagueness and overbreadth. The article only speaks to a couple of cases where convictions were overturned for lack of probable cause under the statute, but that does not necessarily mean the higher courts upheld the constitutionality of the statute itself.

       Where a court can resolve a matter in a defendant's favor on a lesser issue without reaching the larger issue it will often do so and then note it doesn't have to address the larger issue.

       If a case has been presented where a court could not rule in favor of the defendant without directly confronting the question of whether the statute is constitutional on its face and it held the statute is constitutional that is disturbing because as written it would seem that (despite the use of "reasonable") one couyld be convicted for nothing more than than occupying a certain space without ANY criminal intent.


    By that definition... (none / 0) (#3)
    by David at Kmareka on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 10:10:35 AM EST
    One could perhaps make an argument that the police chief was guilty of prowling, in that he was engaged in the unusual activity of roaming around with the apparent intention of using racial profiling to unlawfully harass, intimidate, and detain law-abiding individuals.  Such actions certainly "warrant justifiable and reasonable alarm or immediate concern for the safety of persons or property in the vicinity."

    that sounds like (none / 0) (#6)
    by Jen M on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 12:16:56 PM EST
    "the police can stop whoever they want to wherever and whenever they feel like it"

    justification is easy.  

    "s/he looked suspicious"


    Your comment (none / 0) (#12)
    by georgeh1981 on Wed Mar 21, 2007 at 11:31:42 AM EST
    My good friend, these are crime prevention laws, and when they are not abused, they are well suited in keeping you living in your fairy tale land, where there are no drug dealers standing on every corner until 5 in the morning, selling crack to children.  I work as an officer in the city in question, and the african american citizens who reside here, enjoy our presence and arrests for these "silly crimes" more than you know.  Since the new Chief has come into office, the police department, day after day, is filled with people from that same community thanking him for making the streets safer for their children.

    This Officer


    No Fairy Tale.... (none / 0) (#14)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 21, 2007 at 12:36:45 PM EST
    I'm well aware there are drug dealers in this world sir...we can thank prohibition for forcing them to be criminals.

    My issue is with unjust, tyrannical laws and how they are inevitably abused.  We all have our own life experience to go on....my life experience has taught me loitering laws have no place in a free society, as they are typically used by law enforcement as a reason to bust your balls when they do not have a legitimiate reason.  Others experience may be different.

    PS...I'm sure your boss is a very nice guy, my reefer-man is a really nice guy as well.  But that's not the point....the point is bad laws that stifle freedom.  In our society, law enforcement is supposed to be a difficult undertaking as we have laws that protect individual rights.  Tyranny is a lot less messy, but freedom is worth the extra effort I think.


    Allow me this.. (none / 0) (#15)
    by georgeh1981 on Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 05:43:12 PM EST
    My friend,

    I agree that law enforcement should be a difficult job, exactly because people should have their freedoms, and should be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.  I also agree that their are many officers that (especially in the past) abused these laws in ways that sicken me.  However, the fact
    that 90% of crime seems to stem from, drugs, drug dealers, drug addicts, etc., is good enough reason to
    allow today's officers avenues of prevention.  I am glad that you found yourself a nice guy reefer man, however, I assure you that he fuels this ongoing cycle.  Should narcotics become legal, then THIS officer will enforce those laws, until then, I will keep the drugs off of the streets to the best of my ability.
    A very wise person once told me this.  The ONLY thing worse than government...is NO government.  Think about that.

    Ofc. GMH


    I'm not so sure.... (none / 0) (#16)
    by kdog on Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 05:57:35 PM EST
    I recently saw a documentary on the history of anarchist movement in the US...and it doesn't sound half bad.  Who better to make the decisions affecting your life and well-being than yourself?

    I need to do more thinking and research on it, but I'm siding towards "just saying no" to a central authority.

    Or, at least, we need to reverse the troubling trend of rising authoritarianism we've seen over the last 60 years or so.

    One more point...you say drugs cause 90% of crime, I say its prohibition and the creation of a black market that causes the crime.  Think about it.  Legalize drugs and drug dealers are out of business tomorrow, replaced by liquor-store type retailers.  Drug addiction is a problem that has plagued mankind for centuries, I know of no criminal justice solution that has helped.

    Much respect to you as well sir...appreciate the food for thought.


    I dont entirely disagree... (none / 0) (#17)
    by georgeh1981 on Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 10:54:58 PM EST
    ...actually, would the legalization of narcotics be a  decent idea for the future?  I'm not going to say that it would not, and I realize the problem that the black market creates.  Hear me out, I disagree with drugs, I do not use them, and I do not want to see my family or anyone else use them, however, I do see your point, and as the son of European Immigrants, I understand that the legalization of narcotics has a good success rate over there.  You must also realize, that I swore to uphold the law, and the constitution.  
    I swore that, because there are VERY, VERY, VERY few, free thinking police officers like myself, and the U.S. needs us, so that we can keep some kind of balance.  And, for the time being, narcotics are illegal, and that is what I go by.  As a police officer of today, my main thing is to keep the innocent safe, to keep kids on a straight path, and to change the publics perception of police (from racist redneck control freaks, to educated professionals that help the public in every way).  

    Ofc. GMH

    Trust me, my dilemma is not with people that smoke an occasional joint, I arrest them, because that is what I swore to do, and that is what I have to do. My true calling is educating myself on the laws so I can get the real "bad guys" off the streets, and helping people.  Do I feel bad arresting a guy for a joint? I often do.  
    However, I realize that he keeps the dealer in business, and the dealer carries guns, and tries to sell to children, and he will not hesitate to kill me.  Would legalization stop this, perhaps, but until then, I gotta do what I do.  It would be immoral for me to not uphold my oath.  And my own personal morality, (not like God, like my own REAL morals) is very important to me.


    I understand sir..... (none / 0) (#18)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 09:15:54 AM EST
    It took me a long time to understand, but I've learned that the police officer is not my enemy...the lawmakers are.  Actually, another officer who frequently posts here helped me realize this, and I don't have the hatred for police that I used too.

    The legislature makes us adversaries, and that is unfortunate. All because I enjoy marijuana as a vice as opposed to alcohol...it's sad when you think about it.  Thanks to the legislature, I will never call the police to report a real crime for fear of getting arrested myself.  Which, in the end, makes it more difficult for you to do your job getting violent criminals off the streets....when the millions of other-wise law abiding Americans such as myself who use drugs recreationally are turned into criminals by the legislature.  


    I know (none / 0) (#19)
    by georgeh1981 on Sat Mar 31, 2007 at 12:53:59 PM EST

    I understand your sentiments.  But if you have a problem, and need to call the police, then call.  Remember, BEING high is not illegal, just having the drugs in your possession, and selling/buying them is illegal. Trust me, there are good cops out there.


    Ofc. GMH


    It works both ways (none / 0) (#4)
    by Repack Rider on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 10:35:37 AM EST
    Because I hire from a poor, black enclave, I often go where other white men don't.  This recently attracted the attention of several sheriff's deputies, who ran the plates of my parked vehicle (no violations), then followed me away when I left and pulled me over, without cause or any identified traffic violation, and subjected me to a warrant check (no warrants), a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment.  

    My friends, who can read deputies' movements very well out of long experience, actually gave me a warning via cellphone that the stop was coming down a minute or so before it did.  I was going to be stopped no matter what I did or didn't do.

    The deputies probably figured that, like the poor population I hang out with, I had enough skeletons in my closet that they could get away with it.

    Guess what, never been arrested (61 years), military veteran, voter, home owner, business owner, model citizen, and PISSED.  Now they have a formal complaint and a guy who will do whatever homework is necessary to force a response.

    Same cr*p.... (none / 0) (#5)
    by kdog on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 11:08:42 AM EST
    happened to a co-worker of my bro's...a 55 year old postal worker, no record, stopped and harassed for over an hour in a "known drug area" over legal prescriptions.

    Just because a diner he likes is in a "known drug area", his constitutional rights can be voided.


    Some of the realities of a law enforcement career (none / 0) (#7)
    by Aaron on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 02:56:50 PM EST
    If I may be permitted a bit of speculation,

    There is a common pattern among law enforcement professionals in Florida, I imagine it's common among many urban police departments.  Ambitious officers, who find themselves stifled, or who perhaps have reached a dead end in the larger departments like Metro-Dade and Broward County in South Florida, at some point wind up radiating out into the state to look for jobs.  It's a rather natural phenomena, and especially confined in a state like Florida which is a peninsula surrounded by water.  So you're only real option is to go north to find work.

    I notice that Chief Armando G. Martinez, worked for the Miami PD for several decades, in CID (criminal investigations division) and IAD (internal affairs division) as well as in administration and Field operations.  This guy has been around, obviously an ambitious officer.  This leads me to wonder, why he left the Metro-Dade area, and moved out to the boonies to find a job, so far away from South Florida.

    Bunnell begins interviewing for city's top cop

    Perhaps he was just tired of the pressure, and wanted to move his family to a quieter more laid-back environment, but it's also possible that something happened in his career, something that you won't find posted anywhere on the Internet, but perhaps some enterprising journalist taking advantage of Florida's sunshine laws might be able to uncover signs that Martínez ran into problems on the job down in Miami.  Such things are not uncommon, and they leave a trail which can be followed.

    Oftentimes when officers begin to succumb to pressure and start acting out in ways that are unacceptable, they find themselves quietly shuffled out, their careers placed on the back burner, or retiring early, lest they embarrass the powers that be.  Of course this is just speculation but I've seen this stuff happen at the highest levels of law enforcement in that area, the former Sheriff of Broward County Nick Navarro is one example.

    Just to stand up for cops for a moment, I'll say those who are ambitious and want to rise in these urban municipalities, often wind up selling themselves in ways most people can't imagine, that's just the way it is. If you're not good at these kind of games, seldom will you make it past lieutenant.  

    Sometimes at the end of their careers, cops in such situations begin questioning whether all the compromises were worth it, and start acting out in ways which are indicative of people who have become embittered and angry.  Nothing excuses the kind of behavior we see in this article, but it is understandable and even predictable.  If circumstances had been just a little bit different, it might've turned out far worse for those who were arrested.

    The amount of corruption, nepotism, back fighting and political gotcha games which go on in the various Dade County law enforcement organizations, is really unbelievable, and can be depraved in the most criminal sense.  If you guys should ever run across a cop who's been through that ringer, whatever you do don't cross them, don't give them a reason to focus their aggression on you.  It's just not wise to piss off frustrated angry people who might be on a short fuse, especially when they have guns and badges, and especially if you're Black.

    Aaron, hate to pop your theory, but (none / 0) (#8)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 05:36:10 PM EST
    I would say that he retired, maybe early, and is now double dipping...

    Happens all the time. Military does it, teachers do it, utilities do it...even some of us lucky ones from privare industry did it...


    Reply to your speculation (none / 0) (#13)
    by georgeh1981 on Wed Mar 21, 2007 at 11:53:08 AM EST
    Dear friend,

    Chief Martinez is a good man, that retired from the Police Dept. due to their phasing out all of the Captains positions, and replacing them with Commanders, (I guess financially it made sense). I know him personally, as he is my boss, and role model, and I know exactly why he wanted to leave Miami, but since that is his business and not yours, I will not tell you.  The incident about the young man being arrested for "no reason" did not happen as your article states, and I was there...I saw it with my own two eyes!  What you do not understand is that the residents of our African American part of town love the Chief, and they thank him, myself, and the other officers daily for cleaning the streets.  Of course, you don't believe me, you think I am making this up, right?  You may speculate all that you want about what happened, I need not speculate.  I realize the image of police is not the most flattering, due to a VERY questionable past, in general.  I will also confirm that I have also seen officers, do things that I disagree with, guys who do not care about being good community outreach officers, just "bad ass cops".  This disappoints me greatly, and it upsets me even more that this entire panel here wishes to throw a good man, and a better Chief into a bad light, without knowing what really happened.  Take it from one of the more liberal cops around, Chief Martinez has helped Bunnell out more than you could imagine.  Now all of you, do me a favor, go to a local police department, of a city with a major drug problem, and do a ride along, just to see, what we see.  It is sad, this unfortunate cycle that has taken such a strong grip on inner city America, and the cycle needs to be broken, that is why I became a cop, not to bust innocent people while they walk in the street.  

    This Officer


    Being Black (none / 0) (#9)
    by ProgressiveRick on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 07:29:55 PM EST
    This makes me wonder what Obama's wife meant when she said in response (on 60 minutes)to a question about maybe being worried about Obama's safety running for president... She said that she didn't worry about it becouse "As a black man, he can be shot going to the gas station".

    Who is shooting black men at gas stations? Whites, other blacks, cops?

    Just what does she mean? What was she thinking?!

    horses and zebras (none / 0) (#10)
    by diogenes on Fri Feb 16, 2007 at 07:50:14 PM EST
    Che once told me that when doctors hear hoofbeats outside a window, they think of zebras instead of horses.  Obama's wife, not being a doctor, undoubtedly realizes the obvious, which is that most black men who are shot are shot by black men.

    Diogenes (none / 0) (#11)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Feb 17, 2007 at 04:31:35 PM EST
    Che once told me that when doctors hear hoofbeats outside a window, they think of zebras instead of horses.

    Did  he? God. No wondering doctors are being sued for malpractice.

    Occam's razor is a logical principle attributed to the mediaeval philosopher William of Occam (or Ockham). The principle states that one should not make more assumptions than the minimum needed. This principle is often called the principle of parsimony. It underlies all scientific modelling and theory building. It admonishes us to choose from a set of otherwise equivalent models of a given phenomenon the simplest one