The widely accepted definition of the ‘crime’ of loitering is the act of remaining in a particular public place for a protracted time, without any apparent purpose. The designation of the term ‘public’ place is important as one does not need a purpose to do as they wish on their own private property. One police department in Pennsylvania, however, must have missed this point as they arrested a family earlier this month for the alleged crime of loitering—in their own front yard.
A family, who is black, is now speaking out after they say they were targeted by cops, who were white, and unjustly arrested for loitering for standing in their own front yard. Adding insult to false arrest and kidnapping is the fact that when the family members got out of jail the first time, they were arrested again for the same thing.
“It’s a terrifying thing. It makes me feel as though the police can knock down your door, and drag you out of your home at anytime. This is an incident that made me feel like I’m a prisoner in my own home,” one of the victims, Ramir Briggs said.
According to arrest records, police arrested Briggs after they claimed he was loitering on his own family’s front porch. The arrest was caught on video and is nothing short of infuriating.
As the video shows, Briggs was yanked over the railing on the porch, thrown to the ground and kidnapped. His brother Keith Briggs was also attacked, thrown to the ground, tasered and then thrown in the back of the police cruiser.
In total, four members of the same family were all arrested after being accused of loitering. Naturally, they are now planning to sue.
“The Chester Township Police Department has failed my family. Instead of protecting us and serving us, they decided to attack us on multiple occasions,” said Rachel Briggs, one of the people arrested.
According to neighbors, the police force and presence was all over the top and excessive.
“I just felt that the police presence was excessive. Fifteen police cars — that’s a lot for a family of four or five,” neighbor Turquoise Benson said.
What’s more, according to the family, the police department then placed unreasonably high bails on the members who were arrested.
“The gentleman were taken to jail, they had high bails placed on them. The families scrambled to get their money together, they were able to get them out the next day,” Rachel Briggs explained.
Thinking things couldn’t get any worse, when the family was finally released from jail, the same thing happened again.
As KYW reports, when the young men, who are black, were released from jail, they were greeted by family members on that same lawn where they were arrested. Kevin Mincey, the family’s lawyer, said that’s when officer Storace, who is white, showed up and decided to re-arrest them as well as several other members of their family.
“This shouldn’t happen to any citizen, and certainly a homeowner or someone who’s renting a property,” Mincey said.
CBS 3 Philly reports that the “loitering” law police used to go after the family on their own property was deemed unconstitutional in 2012. But police used it anyway.
The family’s lawyer says the township’s loitering statute was struck down in court back in 2012 when courts ruled it was too vague. However, he says based on these arrests, police are still using the same practices.
According to the town’s loitering statute, in certain areas where loitering is prohibited “officers can question anyone they believe is loitering and ask them to leave.”
However, one would be hard pressed to establish probable cause for a crime of loitering on your own property.
“It essentially says there are to be well posted areas of no loitering signs up that say ‘no loitering.’ There are no ‘no loitering’ signs in this particular neighborhood,” Mincey said.
The family members have since been charged with loitering, resisting arrest and other charges. According to their attorney, they plan on fighting all the charges in court before taking their own action against the police department.
“Who the hell do they think they are to victimize a family like this and do this to someone in this community,” Thomas Fitzpatrick, who also represents the family, said.