VI: The court declines to adopt horizontal collective knowledge

The court declines to adopt horizontal collective knowledge since the V.I. Supreme Court has never addressed it. [It’s rationale, however, is likely at odds with Utah v. Strieff which likely was never briefed.] People v. Looby, 2016 V.I. LEXIS 114 (Aug. 22, 2016):

The collective knowledge doctrine generally has been divided into two types of imputed knowledge, “vertical collective knowledge” and “horizontal collective knowledge.” [See United States v. Rodriguez-Rodriguez, 550 F.3d 1223, 1228 n.5 (10th Cir. 2008) (distinguishing the different approaches to the collective knowledge doctrine).] Vertical collective knowledge involves an officer receiving instructions to search or arrest someone from another officer who has probable cause or reasonable suspicion. Under the vertical collective knowledge doctrine, an officer with the requisite knowledge needed to conduct a lawful search may have another officer act in his place. For example, in United States v. Hensley, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a police officer could rely on a “wanted flyer” to conduct a Terry search even though the officer himself did not have articulable reasonable suspicion. Instead, the validity of the search was predicated on the wanted flyer being issued upon the reasonable suspicion of other police officers.

b. This Court declines to adopt the horizontal collective knowledge doctrine.

1. The horizontal collective knowledge doctrine reaches beyond the boundaries of a reasonable search as set by the Fourth Amendment.

. . .

Not requiring an officer to have reasonable suspicion or to reasonably rely on an order given by another officer with reasonable suspicion before conducting a Terry search could produce unjust results. For example, under the horizontal collective knowledge doctrine, it is possible for an officer to knowingly and purposely conduct a Terry search without reasonable suspicion but then have that unlawful search sanitized by another officer’s prior or concurrent investigation. This scenario is antithetical to the Fourth Amendment’s purpose of deterring unreasonable searches.

2. The horizontal collective knowledge doctrine provides no guidance to police officers on avoiding unreasonable searches.

The Court realizes that police departments adopt policies in response to court opinions to deter their officers from violating the Fourth Amendment when conducting an investigation and, consequently, causing evidence to be suppressed. However, this Court finds that adoption of the horizontal collective knowledge doctrine would in no way inform the Government on proper practices and procedures it could implement to ensure officers operate within the confines of the Fourth Amendment. One commenter provides the following enlightening critique:

The benefits flowing from the new rule [horizontal collective knowledge doctrine] occur by chance and cannot be integrated into a departmental protocol for conducting searches and arrests. The rule does not enhance the portability of probable cause generally, so that police departments may improve their search and communications procedures; instead, the rule simply treats a particular officer, ex post, as having had probable cause when it would otherwise have been lacking. The rule does not help police departments to plan their deployment of personnel, because the rule’s very premise is that the acting officer did not know what the others knew, and therefore could not have known in advance whether his action would prove to have been permissible. [Simon Stem, Constructive Knowledge, Probable Cause, and Administrative Decisionmaking, 82 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1085, 1111 (2013), available at]

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