Illegal Search Produced Viable Evidence Because Security Guard Wasn’t a Government Actor

by | September 22, 2020

United States v. Green, 2020 WL 5539804 (7th Cir. 2020)

Rumael Green went to visit a friend at a Chicago Housing Authority public housing project in Trumbull Park. A contract security guard encountered Green in the laundry room and attempted to stop and search him. Green fled outside, where the guard subdued him, searched him and seized a handgun in his possession. The guard then called the Chicago Police Department.

Green was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm by a felon. He asked the court to suppress the gun. Though the trial court ruled the guard’s stop and search was unlawful, the court declined to grant the motion to suppress. Because the guard was not a government actor, the court ruled the Fourth Amendment did not apply to the detention and search.

Just because the contracting entity is a governing body, it does not necessarily mean the government agency can or did grant police powers to the private entity.

Green appealed. He claimed the Chicago Housing Authority held police powers under state law and that the police powers were delegated to the private security contractor. The court disagreed. The housing authority contracted with the security firm to maintain order and exclude trespassers, without any express delegation of authority. The court held that “a private security guard, even when authorized to use deadly force in self-defense and arrest trespassers pending police arrival, was not a state actor.” Just because the contracting entity is a governing body does not necessarily mean the government agency can or did grant police powers to the private entity. Thus, Green’s conviction stands.

This blog was featured in our Xiphos newsletter, a monthly legal-focused law enforcement newsletter authored by Ken Wallentine. Subscriptions are free for public safety officers, educators and public attorneys.

KEN WALLENTINE is the Chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and former Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He has served over three decades in public safety, is a legal expert and editor of Xiphos, a monthly national criminal procedure newsletter. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and serves as a use of force consultant in state and federal criminal and civil litigation across the nation.

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