Earlier today, news broke that NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg refused to disarm his security detail in the interests of gun control. The answer came when journalist Jason Mattera confronted him and asked him to disarm, while the mayor was visiting Washington DC for the US Conference of Mayors on January 18.
Bloomberg answered, “Uh, we’ll get back with you on that.” Then later, after Mattera had left the area, an Officer Stockton followed him down the street.
Officer Stockton asked Mattera to present his drivers license. Mattera refused, and asked Stockton if he had jurisdiction to ask him any questions.
Stockton replied that he had “security jurisdiction.”
I asked PJ Media’s legal experts, Hans A. von Spakovsky, and Christian Adams, about this question of “security jurisdiction.” Both formerly worked as lawyers in the United States Department of Justice.
Police officers who are outside of their normal jurisdiction but who are acting as protection for a public figure like Bloomberg certainly have the ability to act to protect their principal from a threat of imminent harm. But no such officer has “security jurisdiction” that allows him to harass a member of the press or a member of the public who is not physically threatening his principal. There is no law justifying what the NYPD officer was doing.
Even a Washington, D.C. police officer assigned to help protect Bloomberg while he is in Washington would have no right to engage in such harassment. And it is clear from the video that Mattera wasn’t doing anything other than asking Bloomberg a legitimate question about a political issue that Bloomberg has taken up publicly in a very pronounced way. The NYPD officer was acting far beyond his authority.
And you can quote me on that.
Adams’ reply regarding “security jurisdiction” was a bit more succinct:
No such thing.
The magic words are “reasonable suspicion”. A cop can walk up to you in public and ask you questions any time he wants. But you don’t have to talk to him and you are free to walk away – unless he has reasonable suspicion to detain you.
Defined: “Reasonable suspicion” is information which is sufficient to cause a reasonable law enforcement officer, taking into account his or her training and experience, to reasonably believe that the person to be detained is, was, or is about to be, involved in criminal activity. The officer must be able to articulate more than an “inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or ‘hunch‘ of criminal activity.” (Terry v. Ohio (1968) 392 U.S. 1, 27 [20 L.Ed.2nd 889, 909].)
The purpose of the detention is to investigate. If the investigation reveals probable cause then the detention becomes an arrest. Of course you never have to talk to cops, so even if they have reasonable suspicion to detain you they can’t force you to answer questions. If after a reasonable time they cannot develop probable cause to arrest, they must release you.