This commentary originally appeared on The Washington Post
At their inaugural debate, the Democratic presidential candidates finally agreed that black lives matter. If they mean it, they should take a stand against a common but overlooked way that our criminal system devalues black lives: convicting African American men of minor crimes that they did not commit.
These wrongful convictions are largely byproducts of “order maintenance” or “quality-of-life” policing, in which police arrest large numbers of young black men on baseless charges. Baltimore police, for example, are under court-ordered monitoring for making baseless quality-of-life arrests. As described by one former officer, police tell young men to move along, then arrest them for loitering when they don’t. Maryland courts have already explained that this police practice is illegal: people who are merely standing on the street, even those ordered to move along, are not actually “loitering,” which the city ordinance defines as “to interfere with, impede or hinder the free passage of pedestrian or vehicular traffic” after having been warned to desist.
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