I called upon the Supreme Court, when considering the case of Larry Hiibel, arrested merely for not showing an I.D., to consider our increasingly databased world when judging whether a police request for someone to identify themself is reasonable.
In the Washington Post Sunday, Anne Coughlin called upon them to consider race:
If identification laws become routine features of state penal codes, what criteria will police use when deciding to stop people and ask them their names? History suggests that the police will rely heavily, and sometimes exclusively, on race. The police will invade the privacy of people who are young, male and black (or, perhaps, these days, men who look Middle Eastern) and they will leave the rest of us alone. And, at least as construed by the current court, neither the Fourth nor the Fifth Amendment has much, if anything, to say about that.
Over the past few years, data on traffic violations collected by researchers in a number of states have supported what African American drivers already knew: Police officers are more likely to enforce the traffic code against black drivers than white ones. Consider the ways in which identification laws may extend and exacerbate the potential for racist policing. The identification requirement applies only to one subset of citizens, those whom the police reasonably suspect of having committed crimes. Who are these suspicious people going to be? The same people whom the police target when enforcing the traffic laws. By definition, at least at some times and in some places, minority drivers, for no reason other than physical appearance, will be found by police to give rise to a reasonable suspicion of crime.
My concern is that, if the court uses the Hiibel case to affirm the police's authority to demand ID from suspicious people, we'll end up with a system that amounts to national ID cards for minorities only.
Let's hope that the potential for racist enforcement is on the justices' minds as they decide Hiibel.
Race, databases–let's hope something causes the Supremes to decide properly on this case. But a combination of first-hand reports from a legal-eagle friend in D.C. and Dahlia Lithwick's report in Slate lead me to fear the justice's are only giving the most superficial consideration to the important issues involved here.