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New York Times

Why police can stop the driver by hanging air fresheners on the car

Phil Colbert saw the sheriff’s police car lights flashing in the mirror on his way to meet his father for lunch before shifting to an Arizona car dealership in 2019. .. He confirmed that his hand was on the handle and was planted in 10 and 2 as his parents taught him, and asked why he was stopped. “You can’t hang anything from your rear-view mirror,” a La Paz County adjutant wearing a Blue Lives Matter wristband told him. Police officers mentioned a tree-shaped air freshener hanging near the windshield, but soon moved on to another question: is there marijuana? Do you smoke marijuana? When was the last time you smoked marijuana? Do you have cocaine? To the black Colbert, air fresheners seemed to be just a driving excuse equivalent to Stop and Frisk. Sign up for The Morning Newsletter for the New York Times. “At that point, I was like this.” This guy is coming up with something. He’s just thinking about something to talk to me or ruin me, “said Colbert, 23, who recorded a traffic outage on his cell phone and was finally disappointed with the warning. .. Air fresheners hanging from rear-view mirrors have been an accessory throughout the car for decades. However, it can be treated as illegal in most states where there are laws prohibiting objects near the windshield that could obstruct the driver’s view. They are part of a series of low-level crimes such as colored windows and broken taillights, and civil rights advocates are too common to selectively target colored people. He complains that it is a good excuse. This week’s encounter in Minnesota led to police officers killing a 20-year-old black man, Daunte Wright, but police officers began to stop traffic and raised the issue of air fresheners hanging. Wright’s mother said it started when she did. To her son at the moment of the phone call before he was shot. Washington County lawyer Pete Olput said police officers noticed that Wright’s license plate registration tab had expired and decided to pull his car. One of the police officers later noticed that the air freshener was hanging from the mirror. This was against the law, Orput said. Racial prejudice in traffic outages has been the focus of researchers and civil rights advocates for many years. In Stanford University’s open policing project, researchers who analyzed more than 100 million transportation stops across the country said black and hispanic drivers were likely to stop and be searched. I found a species gap. In summary, officers found a lower percentage of smuggled goods in these searches than in white driver searches. Traffic outages can also escalate, as in the case of Wright, who was shot after a police officer returned to the car when police tried to arrest him with an irrelevant warrant. Police officer Kimberly Potter, who shouted that he was preparing to use a taser gun, resigned and was charged with manslaughter. Paige Fernandez, a police policy advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union, said low-level violations such as expired registrations and mirror air fresheners should not be dealt with by armed police. “The dangers of police closures far outweigh the dangers of police closures,” Fernandez said. Mike Elliott, mayor of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, where Wright was killed, said police officers should not pull people because their registration expired during a coronavirus pandemic. Bans on objects hanging from the rear-view mirror can extend to fuzzy dice, graduation tassel, and rosary. Last year, during a pandemic, Maine officials warned against hanging masks. A woman who answered the phone of the manufacturer of one of the most common hanging air fresheners, Little Trees, said the company would not comment on the legal debate. The company’s website shows a scented paper tree hanging from the rear-view mirror. The state has long been working on how to best handle the blockage problem. According to court data, the state was shown in 2017 after more than 1,400 citations a year for people driving on Maryland’s highways with windshields blocked by objects and materials. The law has changed. Violations are no longer the major offenses, but justify traffic outages, but secondary crimes. This can only be quoted after the driver has been pulled for more serious reasons, such as speeding. Virginia has followed suit as part of a broader package of reforms that limit the time police can implement traffic outages. Dana Schrad, Secretary-General of the Virginia State Police Commissioner’s Association, said the group supported several changes, including a ban on stopping people for recently expired registrations. Police did not object when legislators changed the law to require that the driver’s view must be “substantially” obstructed in order to be considered a violation. By making windshield obstacles a secondary violation, some drivers can continue to drive in the face of substantial obstacles that limit their visibility. Mr Schrad said he raised concerns that road safety could be compromised. Mr Schrad said police would find other problems, such as unresolved felony warrants and evidence of other crimes, if they stopped people for minor offenses. “The more we limit the ability of law enforcement officers to intervene in something that violates the law, the more we limit their ability to detect other criminal acts,” she said. Where air fresheners are treated as a major crime, traffic outages face legal challenges with varying consequences. On the evening of April 2008, Benjamin Garcia-Garcia was driving a minivan along Interstate 55 near Springfield, Illinois. At that time, a state soldier parked at the median moved to the highway and pulled him. According to court records, Trooper claims to have seen the pink air freshener hanging from the Garcia-Garcia mirror and believes it violates state law prohibiting objects that could obstruct the driver’s view. Was there. The trooper later admitted that he did not stop all cars with air fresheners and did not observe any other traffic violations. The trooper issued a written warning, but in the process he also learned that Garcia-Garcia and his passengers were illegally in the country. That triggered a response from the Immigration and Customs Department, and as a result, Garcia-Garcia faced federal accusations of illegally crossing the border. He was imprisoned and deported. Garcia-Garcia disputes the justification of the suspension as part of his criminal case, and the trooper cannot see the air freshener on vehicles traveling at highway speeds, which is a serious obstacle. He claimed that he could not conclude that there was. The 7th US Court of Appeals dismissed this allegation. “The object observed by the trooper was small, but given its size and position with respect to the driver, rational police officers could conclude that it violated Illinois law prohibiting material interference. “The judge wrote. In a recent incident, on the South Side of Chicago, police officers reported seeing air fresheners in the car, began chasing the car, and stopped the car for violating a city ordinance banning windshield obstacles. .. While the transportation was stopped, police officers found a gun in the car and arrested two black men inside. The man disputed the legality of the suspension, but the same Court of Appeals again ruled that the suspension was constitutional. However, in Connecticut in 2010, after a traffic outage in which the driver had a chain and cross hanging from the rear-view mirror, the Supreme Court said the object was relatively small and the soldier who started the stop obstructed the driver’s view. Please do not clarify the concern that you were. Colbert’s case, in which a driver stopped in an unincorporated area between Parker and Lake Havasu in Arizona, was published after he posted a video of a traffic outage online. He later hired a lawyer, Benjamin Taylor. He said he believed his adjutant was engaged in racial profiling. “Even if you’re polite, calm, and college-educated, after all, you’re still black,” Taylor said. “It’s a stereotype with everything a police officer sees.” The Sheriff’s Office later determined that there was no justification for the adjutant’s repeated questions to Colbert. Adjutant Eli Max was fired to handle the stop. According to Taylor, Colbert took steps to file a proceeding, but settled with the county before it happened. Even those who are finally let go of the warning can have a lasting effect of being pulled because of a rearview mirror violation. In Galesburg, Illinois, Brittany Mixon was a senior in high school when pulled by police officers in 2003. This is because, on the surface, the air freshener was hanging from her mirror. But when the policeman approached the car, she said his first question was whether the Toyota Corolla she was driving was hers. “He kept asking me to stumble me,” said Black Mixson. Even now, at the age of 35, she keeps nothing hanging from her mirror or the mirror of the car she is in. Because she doesn’t want to risk being pulled. “If I get into the car with someone and they’re hanging something out of the mirror, I’m like,’Can you drop it?'” Mixon said. “Being a black passenger may cause something to racist police, so let’s get rid of it altogether.” This article was originally published in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company