A few months ago, our civil rights law firm had a few cases come in in succession, all in the Bronx, of people being falsely arrested for walking out of pharmacies with their own prescriptions. Apparently, Bronx cops are under pressure to make prescription drug arrests, and are staking out Duane-Reade and CVS stores in the Bronx then stopping and frisking customers as they leave the store.
Usually, after the typical police harassment and over-aggressiveness, the stop ends without arrest or brutality. Of course, such a stop and frisk is still a civil rights violation. Walking out of a pharmacy does not constitute reasonable suspicion of a crime, so the police can’t legally make the stop (not that legality is much of a deterrent to police misconduct)!
Our civil rights firm did get one case, however, that resulted in an arrest and about 30 hours of incarceration. Two men, Trevor Brown and Willie Baldwin, walked out of a Bronx Duane Reade together. Trevor had a prescription filled. As they walked down the street, Trevor gave the bag to Willie to hold while he searched for something in his pockets. Cops rolled up and demanded to see what’s in the bag. It’s clearly a prescription made out to Trevor. However the cops, no doubt desperate to make arrests to satisfy the higher ups, arrest them.
Why? Well the real answer was of course the police had arrest quotas to meet. The made up charge was that Willie was illegally in possession of his friend Trevor’s prescription . Remember, he was literally holding the bag. Trevor was charged with distribution.
Thankfully, the case was thrown out as soon as they appeared in the courtroom. Nevertheless, two middle aged guys spent 30 hours in jail for no reason. And the two cops? What do they care. Police supervisors only count arrests, they don’t count how many are actually convicted, and they certainly don’t count how many citizens’ rights were violated.