You are a newly hired police officer, and you have just been released from your department’s field training program, which means you are riding solo in your own patrol car. Under the terms of your probationary employment, you may be terminated for any reason until after you have been employed for 1 year. After 1 year, your employment becomes protected by civil service.
While you are on routine patrol, you notice that some of your colleagues are regularly conducting pretextual traffic stops on minority drivers to search for illegal drugs. After the officer’s conduct pretextual traffic stops, they will search the minority drivers and their cars—frequently without consent—or the officers will use implied consent to search (based on fear). By doing this, the officers are frequently successful in finding illegal drugs, which are then used to arrest the drivers. This search methodology appears to be systemic in the department. Discuss the following regarding this scenario:
- 1. What are the Fourth Amendment protections for drivers and their vehicles during traffic stops?
- 2. Explain the difference between racial profiling (illegal) and criminal profiling (legal).
- 3. Define what pretextual traffic stops are. What is the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on pretextual stops?
- 4. What is the difference between reasonable suspicion and probable cause?
- 5. Can someone be detained based on reasonable suspicion? If so, for how long?
- 6. Can someone be arrested based on reasonable suspicion? What is the plain feel doctrine?
- 7. Describe under what conditions an officer may search a vehicle, specifically when the owner declines authorization for an officer to search it.
- 8. As a probationary police officer who can be legally terminated without cause during your first year of employment, how would you handle this kind of a situation, if you discovered it to be systemically happening?