Police Efficiency and the Fourth Amendment

41 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2012 Last revised: 10 Oct 2012

See all articles by L. Song Richardson

L. Song Richardson

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: 2011


Much of our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence is premised upon a profound misunderstanding of the nature of suspicion. When determining whether law enforcement officers had the reasonable suspicion necessary to justify a “stop and frisk,” courts currently assume that, in any given case, the presence or absence of reasonable suspicion can be determined objectively simply by examining the factual circumstances that the officers confronted. This article rejects that proposition. Powerful new research in the behavioral sciences indicates that implicit, nonconscious biases affect the perceptions and judgments that are integral to our understanding of core Fourth Amendment principles. Studies reveal, for example, that many people regard ambiguous actions performed by non-Whites as suspicious, but regard Whites’ performance of those same actions as innocuous. Empirical evidence also demonstrates that officers vary in their ability to overcome implicit biases. Utilizing the behavioral realism framework, this article considers whether courts should supplement their objective, fact-centered approach to stop and-frisk cases with one that is more officer-centric. Rather than treat reasonable suspicion as something that either is or is not objectively provoked by a given case’s facts, this article explores whether courts should place a heavy emphasis on each officer’s “hit rate”— the rate at which an officer has successfully detected criminal activity when conducting stop and frisks in the past. This move, combined with a more robust articulation requirement, may better protect Fourth Amendment norms.

Keywords: Fourth Amendment, Stop-And-Frisk, Policing, Implicit Bias, Behavioral Realism

Suggested Citation

Richardson, L. Song, Police Efficiency and the Fourth Amendment (2011). Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 87, p. 1143, 2011; U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-25. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2151657

L. Song Richardson (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason
Irvine, CA 92612
United States

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