NORTHWEST INDIANA — Roving teams of police are going town to town using a controversial policing tactic that was once limited to tyranny centers like New York City. The teams are stopping people for any menial reason, and “fishing” for criminals. Often people are stopped for giving a “suspicious” look or walking in an area where previous crimes have occurred.
The leader of the intercity “Region Stop Team” is Mark Becker, Chief of Police in East Chicago, Indiana. His team consists of 12 to 18 officers who are dispersed to various local cities, such as Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago, to look for “anything outside the norm.”
Some of the stops are initiated by looking for trivial infractions — such as a broken taillight — but those stops are pretty much a given.
The interesting part about this team is that they go beyond having a tangible reason to stop people.
The Northwest Indiana Times describes another stop:
All it took for another bust was spotting a man ambling away from a gas station known for criminal activity.
Officers leaned the man against the SUV of Lake County Deputy Police Chief Dan Murchek, searching his pockets and white sneakers.
After running the man’s name, they discovered he had a warrant for littering.
“That’s a first,” Lt. Samuel Roberts said with a laugh. Roberts, the leader of STOP’s Gary officers, called their consistent sweeps “sort of like fishing.”
Literally describing their tactics as “fishing,” police resorted to stopping & frisking a man just for walking in the wrong area.
Another stop was initiated from a “funny” glance from a driver — all that Gary police Officer Don Briggs needed to to make his stop, fishing for his next arrest.
“You just don’t know what you’re gonna find,” said East Chicago Police Chief Mark Becker to CBS News.
“We have some nights when you go, go, go and nothing,” Lt. Roberts said. “These small things we do at the street level makes the difference.”
Another stop, recorded by CBS, showed East Chicago Police Chief Mark Becker questioning a man filling up his scooter at a gas station. “Why would you come all the way from Hobart, IN, to here to get gas?”
Getting interrogated for gassing up, or searched for walking in the wrong area, doesn’t seem like a way to build bridges among people who are already skeptical of the police.
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Only public outcry can stop people from being unfairly stopped & searched for no reason. Please spread this article around and make the following departments aware that you do not support “fishing” for criminals when there has been no indication of a crime being committed.
East Chicago Police Department
Chief Mark Becker: (219) 391-8331 (Head of the Region Stop Team)
Deputy Chief John Verbich: (219) 391-8312