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Letter: Lawyer’s advice disregards constitutional protections

Lawyer’s advice disregards constitutional protections

I am disappointed that The News published, as a news article, the opinions of John V. Elmore concerning how people of color should interact with the police. The Oct. 1 article, “ ‘Never run from a police officer’ and other tips,” demonstrates a disregard for the constitutional protections designed to protect citizens against abusive policing. Perhaps, in his full remarks, Elmore framed his “tips” to teens of color in a context that addressed this concern. Such nuance is strikingly absent, however, from the article.

Consider, for example, the admonition that “a big mouth and a screw face will get you arrested.” This amounts to an endorsement of arrests based not on probable cause – as the Fourth Amendment requires – but on the subjective biases of individual police officers. This is the very type of policing ethic that protesters have been lawfully organizing to challenge as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Should a police officer choose to interfere with protesters who are exercising their First Amendment right to free assembly, what is Elmore’s advice? “Disperse, disperse, disperse.”

How can we expect young people to trust the rule of law, or have any investment in their citizenship, when this is the message communicated to them by those in positions of influence? In the future, I hope that The News declines to be a mouthpiece for the opinions of those who appear to be hostile to the constitutional rights of everyday citizens. The newspaper’s resources would be better allocated toward investigating and reporting on the realities of policing in our city.

Anthony O’Rourke

Associate Professor

University at Buffalo Law School

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