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Changes hopefully coming to use of stop-and-frisk in Baltimore

One common form of investigative search used a lot here in Baltimore in the stop-and-frisk, or Terry stop, which involves a brief detention and pat-down of the suspect’s person. The use of the stop-and-frisk here in Baltimore is significant—422 stops were made between August 2012 and July 2013 among 3,000 city police. Because of abuses in the use of this investigative tactic, changes are needed in its use.

Commissioner Anthony W. Batts announced last month that officers in Baltimore would be retrained on the use of the investigative strategy. Batts said that the aim of the retraining is to ensure that officer understand they must have a reason to stop an individual. Under Maryland state law and the Baltimore Police Department’s general orders, officers are required to have reasonable suspicion that an individual is armed and presently dangerous prior to searching for a weapon. Police officers are supposed to file reports to the state police on each stop and frisk they conduct. 

It was also announced that stop-and-frisk tactic will now be called an “investigative stop” due to widespread negative connotations with the former term. The ACLU has been critical of Baltimore police over its alleged failure to document the use of the stop-and-frisk technique, for failing to ensure supervisory review to ensure compliance with legal standards governing its use, and for thinking that changing the name of the investigative strategy makes a difference.

Of course, those who face criminal charges stemming from a questionable stop-and-frisk should always work with an experienced attorney to determine their options for relief. Hopefully some positive changes will be forthcoming in the use of this technique here in Baltimore. We’ll keep readers updated on any changes or news.

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