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Boston Police Seek Warrantless Searches

Monday, 19 November 2007 09:43 AM EST

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

— Ben Franklin

Police in Boston are seeking (and defending) warrantless searches It is a bad idea for allegedly good reasons.

Beantown cops are launching a program that would ask parents in high-crime (code word for minority) neighborhoods to let detectives into their homes, without a warrant.

A couple of years ago I wrote, "The reason famous conservatives joined with the American Civil Liberties Union to oppose overly ambitious plans for renewing the USA Patriot Act was . . . principles.

The USA Patriot Act has always been a sticky wicket, and smarter folks than I are tasked with resolving the challenges. Is the Patriot Act a valuable tool for Intel operators fighting the war on terror? You damnbetcha! Is it potentially dangerous? Absolutely!

The tragically flawed Boston program is based on the premise that parents are scared spitless of gun violence and the possibility that their own little Johnny will be caught up in it that they will turn to police for help, even in their own homes . . . despite constitutional prohibition.

In the next two weeks, Boston police officers (traveling in groups of three and in plainclothes) will ask teenagers' parents or legal guardians for permission to search. If the parents say no, the officers are supposed to leave without any further intimidation.

If the Patriot Act excesses were the camel’s nose in the tent, this is four legs and the tail.

The Bill of Rights reflects the concern of James Madison and others for protecting specific aspects of privacy:

  • The privacy of beliefs (First Amendment)

  • Privacy of the home against demands that it be used to house soldiers (Third Amendment)

  • Privacy of the person and possessions as against unreasonable searches (Fourth Amendment)

  • The Fifth Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination

  • The Ninth Amendment states that the "enumeration of certain rights" in the Bill of Rights "shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people"

    Boston’s unconstitutional assault is the brain flatulence of the police commissioner, Edward F. Davis. Not everyone likes it.

    "I just have a queasy feeling anytime the police try to do an end run around the Constitution," said Thomas Nolan, a former Boston police lieutenant who now teaches criminology at Boston University. The Constitution was written with a very specific intent, and that was to keep the law out of private homes unless there is a written document signed by a judge and based on probable cause. Here, you don't have that."

    The most sacred and fundamental rights of any citizen in a democratic republic is the right to own and keep property and have it protected against unlawful seizure by the government. This is basic constitutional writ. Walter Lippmann once wrote: “Private property was the original source of freedom and its main bulwark.”

    Critics of Boston’s overreaching are rightfully concerned that some residents will be too intimidated by a police presence on their doorstep to say no to a search.

    "Our biggest concern is the notion of informed consent," said Amy Reichbach, at the American Civil Liberties Union. "People might not understand the implications of weapons being tested or any contraband being found."

    Police said they will not search the homes of teenagers they suspect have been involved in shootings or homicides and who investigators are trying to prosecute . . . yet.

    Police will rely primarily on tips from neighbors. They will also follow tips from the department's anonymous hot line and investigators' insights to decide what doors to knock on. “Yeah that kid with the long hair and baggy pants doesn’t look 'right.' You better check him out.”

    Before it folded, the St. Louis program bragged 98 percent of people approached gave consent and St. Louis police seized guns from about half of the homes they searched.

    Robert Heimberger, a retired St. Louis police sergeant who was part of the program there before it folded said, "We had parents that invited us back, and a couple of them nearly insisted that we take keys to their house and come back anytime we wanted," he said.

    Legend holds that a vampire cannot enter a home unless first invited.

    As early as 1886, the United States Supreme Court recognized that the Fifth Amendment protects against all governmental invasions "of the sanctity of a man's home and the privacies of life."

    It is beyond hypocritical for someone to swear "to preserve and protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic" and subsequently focus on undermining, mitigating or abrogating the very document to which they have sworn protection . . . in effect becoming a domestic enemy.

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    "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." — Ben FranklinPolice in Boston are seeking (and defending) warrantless searches...
    Monday, 19 November 2007 09:43 AM
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