An Argument for Requiring Officer Identification
Imagine this scenario: A man exits his workplace in a bad neighborhood and enters his car. He turns to his left and sees several men running toward him with guns drawn. Panicking, he reaches for his own weapon to defend himself, only to be shot through the neck. When the strangers reach his car, they inform him that they are undercover police officers executing an arrest warrant. Because of his injuries, he is paralyzed below the neck.
Most law-abiding citizens would wonder, quite reasonably, why the officers did not identify themselves. Indeed, in the case on which this fact pattern was based, the victim asked this question of the police when they arrived at his vehicle. When confronted with a situation like the one outlined above, most would agree that they would act quite differently if they knew that they were being confronted by police officers rather than criminals. This Comment addresses whether an arrest is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment when the officers fail to identify themselves as police when conducting the arrest.
In Wilson v Arkansas, the Supreme Court held that Fourth Amendment reasonableness depends in part on whether officers knock and announce their presence prior to entering a home to conduct a search. The rationale behind this rule was articulated in Hudson v Michigan, where the majority explained that the “knock-and-announce” rule protected three vital interests: life and limb, property, and privacy. Recently, several plaintiffs, pointing to the Court’s holding in Wilson, have argued that the logic of the knock-and-announce rule ought to be extended to police officers conducting arrests in public. This Comment defends the constitutional validity of a rule requiring police officers to identify themselves as police when conducting an arrest.