The Defense Never Rests

Police official expresses strong views on reasonableness

On Behalf of | Mar 28, 2017 | Criminal Law

Even though the notion of “reasonableness” regarding citizens’ treatment by law enforcement officials is a long-tenured and well-entrenched principle in the criminal law realm, most people don’t have to know that to appreciate the need for reasoned behavior to be clearly on display in every police-citizen encounter.

An ex-police chief notes in a national media piece that reasonableness firmly lacked in one recent encounter where he was a principal participant.

In fact, he was the individual on the receiving end of what he says was the legally questionable — if not flatly unlawful — conduct of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer who detained him at JFK International Airport in New York.

And Hassan Aden minces no words on the matter, stating that “maybe fear and detention is the new mission of the CBP and the Constitution is a mere suggestion.”

Although Aden’s words were spoken in obvious frustration, they certainly echo the sentiments of many people in Indiana and nationally who have unquestionably been treated in an unlawful way by law enforcers who didn’t follow the dictates of the law when detaining, questioning and arresting them for an alleged criminal offense.

What fundamentally bothered Aden is that he was treated shabbily and subjected to what he believes was an impermissibly long wait — in fact, a detention — after he returned to the country from a personal family visit abroad.

Aden quickly concedes the important work being done by CBP officials, but he strongly asserts that reasonableness must guide their efforts at all times.

“If certain criteria is met,” he says, “a reasonable investigative detention is not inappropriate.”

He considers that five minutes or so would have sufficed in his case, given his citizenship, straightforward travel documents, personal history and related information that was readily available and that he quickly offered.

The 90-minute detention he endured was just not reasonable, he says, nor would it be for any similarly situated individual.

Aden openly wonders about a link between what he views as increasingly amped-up and legally questionable treatment of individuals interacting with law enforcement officials and a progressively militant national stress on national security, travel bans and exclusion.

His bottom line: He doesn’t flatly disapprove of a new security-centered status quo, provided that regulators and enforcers are consistently guided by the critically important notion of reasonableness in their encounters with all individuals.