Common sense?

Editorial Board

The Supreme Court decided Wednesday that any individual running away from a police officer can be stopped and questioned if there are “common sense” reasons to suspect that person may have committed a crime.

In a split 5-4 vote, the court decided that Chicago police officers were acting accordingly when they chased down and searched William Wardlow after he ran away when a police cruiser drove by him.

This is just another in a long line of Supreme Court decisions giving police more power to investigate and search suspects.

This weakens the Fourth Amendment, which is meant to protect individuals against “unreasonable searches and seizures” and requires “probable cause” to obtain a warrant.

These standards, the correct standards, are rational and more acceptable than “common sense” — whatever that is broadly defined as.

Police officers are not supposed to be using common sense, they are supposed to be upholding the law in a fair and consistent manner. Common sense could be easily used to develop a blanket of shady law to cover the prejudices and biases that are alive and active in everyone, including police officers.

Depending on the officer, simply being a member of a certain race or dressing in a certain manner could conceivably become a common sense reason to assume someone is guilty of a crime.

Common sense would dictate that a pack of 15 college-aged students walking on West Street at 2:30 on a Saturday morning are probably publicly intoxicated, but is it right to stop them and administer sobriety tests just because 99 times out of 100 you’re going to find one drunk among the bunch?

Believe it or not, there are cities in this great nation where the police are not as fair and unbiased as the cops in Ames. Studies by the Justice Department show that many police departments across the nation commonly engage in racial profiling.

African-American males in high-crime areas have very good reason to flee when a police car rolls past. They run because they know the chances of them being stopped and questioned for no reason are incredibly high.

This ruling gives police officers too much power, which is checked only by a ludicrously vague standard.

Running away when the cops drive by is not an admission of guilt nor a reason to suspect anyone of being a criminal.

Cops and justices who think it is need to take a little crash course in common sense themselves.

Iowa State Daily Editorial Board: Sara Ziegler, Greg Jerrett, Kate Kompas, Carrie Tett and David Roepke.