Thursday, March 27, 2008

DC Police Go Door-to-Door, Looking for Guns and Drugs

So much for the Fourth Amendment:

D.C. police are going door-to-door Monday in one of the city's crime-plagued neighborhoods, asking residents for permission to search their homes for guns and other illegal contraband.

The program, called the Safe Homes Initiative, will offer homeowners and renters limited amnesty for possessing any contraband found by police.

The program is aimed at removing guns and drugs kept by children and young adults in their parents' homes. The homeowners will be asked to sign a form, consenting to the search.

"I think that's good," said parent Brenda Freeman Jones, who worries that many parents aren't aware of what their kids are up to. "Look for the gun and drugs, sign the papers. Get stuff off the street."

Police plan to test any firearm that is recovered to see if it used in a crime. Weapons linked to shootings or murders will require an investigation, according to police, and could lead to charges. [WJLA News]
In reality, there is no such thing as a "courtesy" police search; this program is little more than naked coercion disguised as crime-fighting; after all, it seems pretty clear that it is designed so that the mere act of refusing to submit to the government's search casts you in a cloud of suspicion. This program is little more a disgusting assault on the individual's right to be free of government interference in his life absent probable cause.

The irony is that the District government has mandated that all motor vehicle license plates carry the quote "TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION," a plain dig at the fact that the District is not treated like a state by the federal government. I say that this claim is utterly disingenuous; in the realms of government that the District does control, it routinely and wantonly violates the rights of its citizens, be it the right to own a firearm for self-defense, the right to rent your property on the open market without the government setting the rate, or now the right to be secure in one's property without unreasonable search. In my view, "taxation without representation" is the least of the District's worries--a view evidenced all the more by this latest outrage.


GuruKid said...

First of all, this is not a violation of the fourth amendment since the homeowners have to give permission for their home to be searched. It is mostly meant for those parents who trust their children enough to not search their rooms themselves.

Also your claim that residents who refuse to give permission will be "cast in cloud of suspicion" is without any backing. And even if that happened, no court of law would put out a search warrant simply because they refused voluntarily.

Nicholas Provenzo said...

If a group of four or five uniformed and armed lawmen come to my home uninvited, knock upon my door and ask if I would be willing to let them in so they can have a have a look around to search for contraband (but of course I can decline them if I so choose), I have just received a very intimidating message. This is not a message that a government formed upon the principle that its people are secure in their property should be sending.

Furthermore, this program most definitely casts a cloud of suspicion over those who refuse to grant entry to the police, even if it is not a legal cloud. After all, you more or less indicate that you have no problem with the aims of this effort. In that light, I doubt that your reaction to your neighbor refusing entry to the police will be that he is just exercising his constitutional right to refuse an unreasonable search. I wager that you will perceive his refusal in a far more sinister light.

Aestus said...

About a year and a half ago, I was stopped by the Newport Beach police after merely making a legal right turn through a traffic light. That was stunning enough, but that was just the beginning. I asked the officer why he stopped me, and he did NOT give me a reason. He actually said, "You seem nervous." I had to fight to control my emotions, and I calmly told him that I was late for work. Soon after he asked if I used drugs, and I incredulously said "No."

Then he got me out of my car and got me to open my car trunk. He then told me to sit on the ground while he searched through my car. He actually said something like, "You must have them in here." Eventually he gave up. I asked if I could leave, and he reluctantly agreed. By the way, the officer _never_ charged me or even accused me of breaking a law. I still have no idea why he stopped me. (He didn't accuse me of speeding.)

I've heard more horror stories about Newport Beach, CA police than with any other force. (That's withstanding what I've heard about Prince George's County police near D.C. too.) It seems that there's little wonder that more news stories of corruption pop up regarding the NBPD, but my point is that these sorts of rights invasions happen all over the U.S.

As long as people do not (care to) know what gave rise to the Bill of Rights and as long as our legislation gives the police broader authorities, these sorts of activities will continue unabated.