Unreasonable Suspicion: Operation Groupme’s Profiling Problem

There’s an app for that.

In 2015, Georgetown’s Business Improvement District partnered with Washington D.C. police to launch the group-messaging chat room, “Operation GroupMe.” The app was made available on iPhone and Android, and members of the chat room were provided the opportunity to notify the neighborhood of individuals they felt were potential shoplifters throughout Georgetown. The concept seemed like a good idea.

That is, until people actually started to use the app.

Some of the posts created by members of the chat room include, “Suspicious tranny in store at Wear,” and “Need someone ASAP… person walking out… BLK male.” For those who saved their money and did not go to law school, reasonable suspicion is a legal standard that police officers use for arrests, which must be based on specific and articulable facts. Examples of reasonable suspicion are the smell of a controlled substance, or someone who runs after seeing police. Reasonable suspicion must be more than a hunch. Therefore being a “tranny”—which means “transsexual” for those unfamiliar with ignorant terminology—is not a determining factor in deciding if someone will steal. Furthermore, stating that a “BLK”—which is slang for “Black” for those who don’t text message—is not a crime in Washington D.C.

As of now, the chat room has been suspended by the Georgetown Business Improvement District. Hopefully, the community will be able to use down time to sufficiently learn what reasonable suspicion is, because misunderstanding the law must be the problem.

Rightttt—that’s slang for sarcasm.

Eason Wilson

A law student full of dreams and sometimes, I sleep.

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