Cop Detains Black Man for Walking With Hands in Pockets

Enough for 'reasonable suspicion' on a cold Michigan day?
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 30, 2014 11:50 PM CST
Updated Dec 1, 2014 6:56 AM CST

Brandon McKean could scarcely believe the reason a Pontiac, Mich., police officer gave for detaining and questioning him on Thanksgiving afternoon: walking with his hands in his pockets on a freezing day. "There's 10,000 people in Pontiac right now with their hands in their pockets," the 33-year-old tells the officer in a 70-second video of the incident that McKean posted to his Facebook page; the high that day in Pontiac was 33 degrees. The stop was apparently prompted by a call from a worried citizen who had seen McKean walking, and the officer told McKean he had been "making people nervous." Replies McKean, who is black, "By walking by?" Answers the white officer, "Yeah, they said you had your hands in your pockets."

"I'm really mad at the situation, whoever called. That's crazy," McKean tells the officer, who later continues, "we do have a lot of robberies, so I'm just checking on you." Gawker has this on the legality of the situation: "This type of questioning, universally known as a Terry stop, requires an officer to have reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed." The incident ended peacefully, but it challenges "the far stretches of what could be considered 'reasonable suspicion,'" writes Llywellyn Bird at the Pontiac Tribune. Reasonable suspicion most often stems from actually seeing the suspect exhibit unusual behavior, but "in this instance, the only reasonable suspicion the officer disclosed was an alleged call received by police from a nervous resident." As for the reference to the robberies, writes Bird, that's "far too broad to suspect any potential wrongdoing." (In St. Louis, cops are fuming over the Rams' Ferguson protest.)

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