Don’t Trust Stormtroopers to Uphold Civil Rights

The First Order on Star Wars Resistance stationed a detachment of Stormtroopers on the Colossus to protect against pirates in the episode “The First Order Occupation.” As with any invading force with ulterior motives, the First Order started conducting law enforcement activities. One can imagine how Stormtroopers are naturally guardians of Civil Rights.

Three Stormtroopers stopped a Rodian named Glem and demanded to see his identification near the beginning of the episode. The stop of the Rodian was a civil rights violation, because there was no reason to justify a “police” stop. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Law enforcement (in the United States) must have a “reasonable suspicion” based on specific facts that warrant a stop. This is a lower standard than probable cause, but it cannot be a “hunch” to stop someone. United States v. Hodgkin, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 199936, at *7-8 (D. Nev. May 24, 2017). Reasonable suspicion is a commonsense standard with the practical considerations of everyday life. Id.

An equally important requirement for a station with denizens from multiple species is that any stops by law enforcement must be done in a racially neutral manner. See, Floyd v. City of New York, 959 F. Supp. 2d 540 (2013); U.S. Const. amend. XIV § 1; Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 813 (1996).

The First Order had no common sense reason to stop Glem beyond, “You! Show us your identification.” There are no facts the First Order Stormtroopers can identify that support a reason to stop Glem. They made no attempt to even meet the low standard of a “reasonable suspicion” other than to send a message to bow down to the First Order.

The Civil Rights violations continued throughout the episode with Stormtroopers stopping a Frigosian janitor named Opeepit and confiscating his floor buffer. There is no credible argument that a floor buffer is a weapon or a contraband item warranting confiscation. The taking of the floor buffer was an unreasonable seizure and a violation of the janitor’s rights. It’s also just mean.

The worst violation of an individual’s Civil Rights was the arrest of a Gotal named Rolt for loitering past curfew. Loitering is usually a misdemeanor if someone is in a place for an “unreasonable length of time as to give rise in a reasonable observer a belief that the person intends criminal mischief.” Bouvier Law Dictionary. Modern curfew laws usually apply to children. While wartime curfews that apply to an entire population might be valid, courts have held that curfews that restricted the travel of Japanese-Americans during World War II violated their rights. See, Odow v. United States, 51 Fed. Cl. 425 (2001). The language and applicability of the First Order curfew is never explained, but would be highly suspect given the First Order’s track record of Fourth Amendment violations.

Liberty does not die a quick death, but a slow one when people have a blase attitude on Civil Rights in the name of security. Tam Ryvora surprisingly embodied this view, with her nonchalant attitude about the First Order providing “security” on the Colossus. When anyone advocates that a “stop and frisk” policy is needed for “law and order” over freedom, the bulwark against oppression breaks. Where will this all lead in Star Wars Resistance? Probably without lawyers, but I bet there will be a dogfight or two.