20140210 Minority retort – when suspicion is not required.

Looking into suspicion for the new book “How does that make you feel?” with the subtitle of “Understanding Suspicion in Financial Crime”, an important source of material is in relation to stop and search. Add in profiling and predictive policing and it all starts to look a bit like the Tom Cruise film “Minority Report.”

Stop and search is both a legitimate investigation tool and an excuse for bullying. There is a long-stop position – when a case comes to trial, where the stop and search was improperly conducted, or not founded on reasonable suspicion, the Court should (but does not always) prevent the presentation of evidence arising during the stop and, perhaps even more importantly, any evidence obtained as a result of evidence improperly obtained.

There are all kinds of technical, legal, terms for it but basically it means that a poisoned root results in a poisoned tree.

It’s a powerful weapon and, although civil rights protesters have jumped on it as a valuable bandwagon, the truth is that they add nothing of value, except a megaphone, to that which has existed in the laws of evidence for many centuries. They do, have a valuable contribution, however, in relation to the abuse of stop-and-search, especially where that is a policy decision enforced against officers and public equally.

The effectiveness of the laws of evidence is why, in relation to much financial crime including organised crime, serious frauds and money laundering, many countries create special powers, powers that do not exist in relation to other offences, even murder. Even in financial crime, some evidence of something suspicious is usually required for a raid or an arrest.

All over the world, in the 1970s and 1980s, civil disorder spread across the world as copycat communities, usually black, decided to ape the riots that followed the beating of Rodney King. All over the world, governments enacted stop-and-search laws. In the UK, it was nicknamed the “sus” law and it said that an officer could stop anyone on the street if he had reasonable suspicion that that person had committed a crime or may be preparing to. Ironically, the policies increased racial tensions, providing a wedge that was driven between minorities and the police and in many places remains today.

Unfortunately, across the world, similar laws resulted in racial profiling: in the USA there is an ironic comment that drivers are stopped for DWB – driving while black. The profiling may be officially rejected but the fact is that, in New York, a city with a massive population from an extremely wide ethnic background, more than 80% of “stop and frisk” events are of black or Hispanic youths (2012). Even so, less than 1% were found to be carrying any kind of weapon; less than 10% were charged with an offence of any kind. Of those that were charged, some were spurious charges, as shown in the startling account of the stop-and-search practices of the New York Police Department published by The Nation. It’s a disgrace and the officers who have spoken out about it are brave indeed.

Stopped-and-Frisked: ‘For Being a F**king Mutt’

In “Understanding Suspicion….”, I discuss the question of suspicion, profiling and relate it to the increasingly in-vogue “predictive policing.” Some would argue that predictive policing, inevitably, results in profiling and in an increase in stop and search.

The book raises the question: are we in financial crime risk and compliance all, both for reasons of compliance and self-protection, deputised to undertake stop and search of persons by way of their private information, even though we don’t physically pat them down?


© 2014 Nigel Morris-Cotterill
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