Several Slog readers have sent in tips about a recent post on Wallingford's neighborhood blog, Wallyhood.org, about a resident who lives near N 49th Street and Burke Avenue and reports confronting a group of teenagers who he saw breaking into his car. The resident shouted, the kids ran, the resident called the cops.
Here's the pertinent part:
The police showed up in about 7 minutes and they couldn’t find the group. They did find one youngster who lived in the area who sort of fit the description of the one who ran. He had nothing on him or any priors. The police think that they likely had a car nearby, ducked into a store or live nearby.
The police asked that I share this experience with you all and if you see a group of black teens wandering the neighborhood, to call the police.
I read that last sentence and my bullshit detector started trilling.
I'm skeptical any SPD officer would tell a potential crime victim to call the police simply if they saw "a group of black teens" because that kind of advice—and those resulting 911 calls—would be utterly useless to responding officers.
As SPD spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb explains, "We need specific information in order to make a stop." Info like physical descriptors of subjects (meaning: piercings, hairstyles, height, janky noses, not just race), the type of clothing they're wearing, the car they're driving, a license plate number, anything that makes a person or their mode of transportation unique enough for officers to make a legal stop. That said, it's pretty weird that the resident doesn't offer up any physical or clothing description of the teens—even though he (or she) says he (or she) confronted them.
In order to make a legal stop, "We need to develop reasonable suspicion, which is the first step to probable cause," Whitcomb explains.
Whitcomb is also skeptical that the situation happened as the resident describes. He adds, "It needs to be pretty specific description in order for me to want to get out and make a contact." Race doesn't cut it.
In case that isn't clear: Black teens are allowed to roam around neighborhoods, even lily-white Wallingford. Roaming in packs, as all teens do, doesn't make them criminals.
That said, the best part of that otherwise pretty racist and useless Wallingford blog post is its comments section: