Massachusett’s highest court, tossing out a Boston man’s gun conviction, ordered judges this week to consider whether a black person who walks away from a police officer is attempting to avoid the “recurring indignity of being racially profiled” — and not because the person is guilty of a crime, reports the Boston Globe. The Supreme Judicial Court overturned the conviction of Jimmy Warren, citing studies by the ACLU and Boston police, both of which found that black people were more likely to be stopped and frisked by police. “The finding that black males in Boston are disproportionately and repeatedly targeted for [what police call “Field Interrogation and Observations,” or stops] suggests a reason for flight totally unrelated to consciousness of guilt,’’ Justice Geraldine Hines wrote in the court’s unanimous opinion.
Civil rights advocates lauded the decision, but police insisted that they did not engage in racial profiling. “This is huge for advocates who have been trying to get courts to recognize racial profiling across the country,” said Boston NAACP president Michael Curry. Police Commissioner William B. Evans criticized the ruling, and a spokesman for the Suffolk County district attorney vowed to ask for a rehearing of the case. “I’m troubled, basically, that this decision relied on a biased report by the ACLU,” Evans said. The ruling also cited a Police Department report that also found disparities, but to a lesser degree.