Sunday, June 08, 2008

Civil liberties violated in Washington, D.C.

Isn't it a bit creepy to have to answer to the police when you're just driving down the road minding your own business? Wouldn't it be better, if in Washington D.C. they turned the officers loose in the neighborhood to look for criminal activity based on reasonable suspicion, that is, let the police do their jobs, rather than, relying on already weak precedent, add one more crazy step to the blanket destruction of civil liberties? It is very wrong to order police to investigate everyone.

According to this article on the AP wire police in Washington, D.C. have been ordered to stop all vehicle traffic on a specific street, look in vehicles, demand identification, and permit or deny passage. Citing nothing except a crimewave in a torn inner city neighborhood, police decision-makers have crushed your freedom of movement. If you drive down this street, you will have to speak to police, answer questions, show identification. Then they will say whether or not you can drive down the fucking the street.

The final straw is that someone somewhere has decided to play like it's legal for cops to say, "Well, Mr. Jones, we're not going to let you drive down this street, you're going to have to turn around and get out of here."

It's a very old police tactic in poor neighborhoods to find a reason to stop someone and start asking questions about what they are doing there. This is usually because police are suspicious about something criminal.

What's new here is the blanket-approach, first legitimized by sobriety checkpoints, a blanket suspicion where everybody at a certain point gets checked for alcohol consumption. Police devote millions of dollars in overtime wages for this legally shaky activity, while statistics show they find several times more drunks by pulling over people driving like maniacs.

However, with this lazy, scatter-shot approach to law enforcement, in bending civil liberties, whoever it is makes these decisions accomplishes 2 objectives. One, they create what they apparently believe is a deterrent to drinking and driving, although if this kind of thing keeps on going, it will in reality be more like a deterrent to leaving your own house. Two, they believe they score a publicity victory. In their mind, nobody can say they're not tough on alcohol-related crime, by God, just look: they stopped 8,000 drivers in one night and found 15 drunks.

So on one hand you've got ruling by fear, and on the other you've got cop-theatre. So you're not only afraid to leave your own house to pick up that six pack, but you're apprehended on the way to the Quickie Mart, and held up as a shining example of how hard the Police decision-makers are working to prevent drunk driving. Who cares if you've not had a beer since last Thursday? Certainly not the person (more likely a committee, i.e. not just one bonehead but multiple boneheads) who decided to allow this wholesale invasion of privacy and blatant violation of constitutional rights.

But the American people do care. According to the article, Civil Liberties groups, that is, patriotic and gutsy American citizens, will also speak to the folks who are stopped. They will gather data, and eventually will fight, legally, to restore trendy damage to principles that have made the United States of American a wonderful, and free, nation.

No comments: