cover image Unreasonable: Black Lives, Police Power, and the Fourth Amendment

Unreasonable: Black Lives, Police Power, and the Fourth Amendment

Devon W. Carbado. New Press, $27.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-62097-424-7

UCLA Law professor Carbado (coauthor, Acting White?) contends in this astute legal analysis that the Supreme Court has degraded the Fourth Amendment by giving law enforcement extraordinary powers to stop, frisk, and intrusively search Black citizens. Illustrating the degree to which constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures have been weakened, Carbado takes a fictional Black woman named Tanya through a series of police interactions to show how, even without any “objective reason” to suspect her of illicit activity, officers can follow, question, search, and surveil her without violating the Fourth Amendment. Elsewhere, Carbado argues the Supreme Court’s “colorblind” approach to police power ignores the real-life relationship between the Black community and law enforcement; convincingly disputes the court’s insistence—in 1991’s Florida v. Bostick and other cases—that people approached by the police feel free “to decline officers’ requests or otherwise terminate the encounter” without being informed of their right to do so; and documents how the wide leeway the court gives police to use minor traffic infractions as a pretext to search for drugs and other criminal violations disproportionately affects people of color. Enriched by Carbado’s accessible analysis of court rulings and judicious selection of case studies, this is a powerful indictment of the criminal justice system. (Mar.)