Essay Example on Law enforcement officers in the United States often perform Terry Stops









Law enforcement officers in the United States often perform Terry stops as part of the work routinely associated with police patrol In policing the term Terry Stops which refers to the stop and frisk practice was coined in 1968 and derives from the Supreme Court case Terry v Ohio 392 U S 1 1968 In that landmark case it was ruled that the Fourth Amendment constitutional right made applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures of individuals by American government agents is not violated when police officers detain for a short period time an individual whom they reasonably believe to be committing have committed or about to commit a criminal activity In the above mentioned Supreme Court case John W Terry Richard Chilton and Carl Katz were observed by detective Martin McFadden a plainclothes Cleveland Police Department policeman Based on his many years of experience in the police forces the officer believed that these men were casing a job a stick up thus he decided to stop and pat down the three men s outer clothing upon which he recovered a revolver in Terry s overcoat pocket and another one in Chilton s outside clothing upon which both men were charged convicted and sentenced to a three year imprisonment for carrying a concealed weapon Terry s and Chilton s defense counsel who had unsuccessfully tried to have the case dismissed at trial on grounds that the seizure and the subsequent search were a violation of the 

Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution vainly appealed both men s conviction to an intermediate appellate court first then to the Ohio State Supreme Court which dismissed the appeal invoking no substantial constitutional question involvement and thus the case made its way to the United States Supreme Court The Terry v Ohio 392 U S 1 1968 Supreme Court case deals with individuals Fourth Amendment constitutional rights in non consensual encounters on the street between a person and a police officer investigating suspicious criminal activity or conduct Fact is that whenever a police officer stops an individual and thereafter limits his her freedom to leave the officer has seized that person within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment of the U S Constitution since there has been an intrusion in someone's privacy by a government agent Consequently a police officer must possess reasonable suspicion about the individual s involvement in a criminal activity to validate the stop and thus be able to point out specific and articulable facts Moreover the reasonableness of an individual s detention or seizure must be evaluated through the totality of circumstances and against the standard of a reasonable person as accentuated by the U S Supreme Court s question Would the facts available to the officer at the moment of the seizure or the search warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that the action taken was appropriate In a nutshell a Terry Stop is the brief detention of a person by a police officer for investigative purpose based on the officer's reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is has been or will be afoot when probable cause does not yet exist to warrant an arrest 

Reasonable Suspicion an intermediate level of suspicion that is less than probable cause but more than a simple hunch inarticulate suspicion or gut feeling is the standard of justification needed to support a legal Terry stop when probable cause does not yet exist to arrest In other words the police officer must be able to point to specific and articulable facts which taken together with rational inferences from those facts reasonably warrant that intrusion Furthermore police officers must diligently use a method of inquiry that is the least intrusive and which swiftly will confirm or refute the initial suspicion within a reasonable time period Should the Terry Stop exceed in length a reasonable time it then becomes the type of seizure of person considered an arrest which requires a warrant or probable cause Note that during a Terry Stop the police officer may not require the person to move from the initial stop location or the stop will be considered an arrest Also police officers may lawfully use force during an investigative stop or Terry Stop if they believe that it protects their own safety or the public's safety In modern days police patrol work the Terry Stop is a valuable tool for law enforcement officers who need some type of flexibility in tackling fast developing and sometimes perilous circumstances that may suddenly occur while performing routine street police patrolling If applied justifiably fairly with common sense and good ethics by patrol police officers Terry Stops are proactive policing practices that help reduces e g hotspots crime areas deter i e deterrence as crime control and solve crimes thus proving to be an effective policing strategy Additionally that type of police interaction positively underlines law enforcement legitimacy as it preserves and even boosts citizens sense of justice who then feel safer which in turn benefits police community relations

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