Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cop News: Supreme Court Expands Pat-Downs for Officer Safety

Being an ex-cop myself (fuzz that was) I'm still keenly interested in all things cop-related, so I was interested to read this Associated Press Story. I also thought it was interesting see to which Justice is quoted, though it's not clear to me if she wrote the majority opinion:

US Supreme Court says passenger can be frisked

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that police officers have leeway to frisk a passenger in a car stopped for a traffic violation even if nothing indicates the passenger has committed a crime or is about to do so.

The court on Monday unanimously overruled an Arizona appeals court that threw out evidence found during such an encounter.

The case involved a 2002 pat-down search of an Eloy, Ariz., man by an Oro Valley police officer, who found a gun and marijuana.

The justices accepted Arizona's argument that traffic stops are inherently dangerous for police and that pat-downs are permissible when an officer has a reasonable suspicion that the passenger may be armed and dangerous.

The pat-down is allowed if the police "harbor reasonable suspicion that a person subjected to the frisk is armed, and therefore dangerous to the safety of the police and public," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.

While the story doesn't expressly state it, I think this represents an expansion of police powers to stop and frisk anyone with no requirement for probably cause, other than officer safety. I'm all for that, of course, but even I can recognize the potential for abuse. Cornell University has a detailed website where you can learn more about the case.

The other interesting item of cops in the news, is this story out of Georgia - Atlanta Woman Uses Taser Gun to Help Officer in Distress:

Tanisha Cross never thought the Taser stun gun she received for Christmas would come in handy so soon.

Cross said she was headed to Wal-Mart in Lithonia with her mother when she noticed a DeKalb County police officer in distress.

"I just told my mom pull over, let's try to help," said Cross.

The 20-year-old mother, who received the taser as a gift from her husband, said she kept it in a diaper bag.

Cross said while others gathered to watch, she sprung into action.

"I went straight for my kid’s diaper bag and I got it and asked it if he [officer] wanted me to do it and he said, 'Yea,'" said Cross.

Cross said the officer had a hard time defending himself because the attacker had taken the officer's radio and managed to rub pepper spray in the officer's face and eyes.

Jolting the attacker, Cross' timing couldn't have been better. Cross said she tasered the suspect in his arms and legs.

Cross said she stunned the attacker to where the officer regained his composure and fought back until a security guard came to their aid.

"He's brave," she said. "He did his best to keep him from his gun. He handled the situation very well. I was just glad I could help him," said Cross.

Cross doesn't consider herself a hero.

"I'm just a bystander trying to help do the right thing," said Cross.

Click here to see the video from WSBTV.

I've got to get me one of these new-fangled tasers. Maybe get a pink taser, for the little woman.

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