James Campbell had just parked in front of his friend’s house when Indianapolis police officer Frank Miller ran up to him, gun drawn, and yelling at him to get on the ground. Officer Miller was on the lookout for a Black man with braids who had run from a robbery. Campbell is Black, but he had an Afro, not braids. He was not running. He was not out of breath. He had just gotten out of his car. And he did not have—and had never had—reason to run from the police.
Campbell was wearing his dress clothes—he and his friend were headed out to the Indianapolis jazz festival—so he leaned against a car instead of getting on the ground. Officer Miller put Campbell in handcuffs. Other officers came on the scene and confirmed that Campbell was not who they were looking for. But Campbell stayed in cuffs, and officers patted him down twice—finding nothing.
Then one officer walking down the long driveway of Campbell’s friend, picked up a small baggie containing marijuana. The bag didn’t belong to Campbell; he doesn’t use drugs. But Officer Miller told Campbell he was under arrest for marijuana possession. Then he pulled out a pair of latex gloves. Officer Miller strip searched Campbell in his friend’s unfenced backyard, visible to Campbell’s friend, his family, and anyone curious about what police cars were doing in the area. Officer Miller found nothing, and Campbell was uncuffed, issued a summons, and told he could go. He was never charged with any crime. “Being a former marine and having been in wartime situations,” he told me, “I consider myself to be pretty tough. But nothing can prepare you for a moment like that.”
Campbell sued, seeking a court order that would prevent something similar from happening again. But the judge refused to stop Indianapolis police from strip searching people in public; not because it was appropriate or constitutional, but because Campbell could not prove that the Indianapolis police would violate his constitutional rights in just this way in the future. Chapter 9 of SHIELDED explains how this rule came to be, and the near-impossibility of getting forward-looking relief.