The Police State?
Anon 6:32, in the comments of my Drug Money? post asks, "Police State We're Living In" ? Fred ! How can you say that ? Can you qualify that? As I responded to him, I'm sure most of us would have a different definition of what a police state consists of.
Certainly efforts to take away American's civil rights have been going on since this country was founded and, for my fellow Bush Haters, this didn't all start with him. All, or parts, of the PATRIOT Act have been proposed by people from both sides of the aisle for quite some time.
Then, we have asset forfeiture laws. Laws that are generally civil actions (correct me if I'm wrong here) brought against those who have supposedly committed crimes. I have no problem with those criminals who profit greatly from illegal acts having their ill- gotten gains taken from them, but it should be done only on conviction and only when the criminal responsible has his or her assets seized, not someone else not involved.
That isn't the way it always happens, though. Asset forfeiture proceedings can be taken against people who knew nothing of the crime and only had property involved, like the guy in Oakland who was using a relative's car while soliciting a prostitute. The relative's car was seized.
I've had this verified by law enforcement people. If you own a house somewhere, rent it out and the tenants grow pot and get caught, your house can be seized and sold, although you had no idea what was going on.
Past Eureka Police Chief, Arnie Millsap, was quoted some years ago, in regards to forfeiture of people not involved in crimes, "We don't do that up here". I'd say that in itself is an admission that this is done. I'm glad they don't do it up here, if he's telling the truth.
The fact that many departments do it and it gets made easier by an occasional court ruling, while not an indication to most of a Police State, is certainly indicative to me of law enforcement getting out of hand and having more control of people- innocent people- than they should have.
Soboriety Check Points
It's been touched on by at least one other blogger: The soboriety check points that are all in vogue with the police and the nanny staters nowadays.
I've been offended by stops without probable cause for decades. Some of you older folks might remember back in the '70s they did something similar to soboriety checkpoints for vehicle safety. I forget what they called them.
The CHP would put up a checkpoint somewhere, unannounced. All the ones I'd gone through were placed so there was no way to avoid them. Last one that caught me was in the northbound (or is that west bound?) lane of Myrtle Avenue in Eureka, right after you came up around the hill off Old Arcata Road.
Once you came around the corner there was no way to avoid it. They motion you over and put your car through a safety inspection, giving you a fix- it- ticket for any violations found. Really humiliating to me, at the time. I think it still would be. It would really piss me off. I'm just driving along minding my own business and get pulled over for not doing anything and have to go through a big hassle.
As an aside, back in '84, while in the College of the Redwoods Police Academy, the late Sgt. (later to be Captain) Baarts, of the local Highway Patrol office taught the Traffic class that was part of the Admin of Justice curicullim.
As part of that class we did this thing where you play a officer being interviewed for the job of traffic supervisor of a local police department. One of the questions I was asked was if I supported any kind of roadside safety checks, the kind I've been referring to. They'd stopped doing them a few years earlier, the reason which escapes me now.
Anyway, I said something along the lines of, "No, I won't support stopping people on the road without probable cause. I don't think that's right. We're not a police state.". He seemed surprised by the answer. I got the impression he disagreed.
He went on to say that he thought we got a good deal with those checkpoints as some states require you to pay for a mechanical inspection before you can get your car registered so this saved people money. Regardless of that, he said my answer of requiring probable cause was a good one. I felt good about it.
So, they got rid of those safety checks, then eventually talked someone into these soboriety check points. I'm not sure just how far I think the police should be allowed to go but, seems to me, we've already started down the slippery slope with these soboriety check points.
First it was just for drunk drivers. Now, not only is anyone who's been drinking stopped, they check drivers licenses and pop people for various violations like not wearing a seatbelt. I can't help wonder if they're also running computer checks as I keep reading in the paper about people getting arrested on warrants at soboriety checkpoints.
What will they be checking us for next at these checkpoints? At this point, since the courts seem to think there's nothing wrong with what's going on, I'm sure they can be persuaded to allow even more search and seizure to be done at these stops.
Today's Times- Standard has a My Word column by Rio Dell resident and local gadfly, Jim Garvey, who also seems to believe soboriety checkpoints are unconstitutional. His column is a bit convoluted and hard to follow, at least for me. Nice to see I'm not alone, though.
Asset Forfeiture and Soboriety Checkpoints are just two issue in regards to the Police State. Surveillance and the PATRIOT Act are others where, although we may not be there yet for many people's description of the Police State, it should be close enough to give one pause.
Let's never mind efforts by some states and localities to disarm the citizenry and only allow the police, criminals and military to own guns (although I'll admit that issue hasn't been as hard pressed in recent years, at least on the national level).
I'm sure some of our commentors on this blog from both the Left and Right will be able to come up with other example of, if we're not a Police State now, we're at least heading towards being one. So let's hear from the Left and Right. If there's one thing the Bush Administration can take credit for, it's bringing together elements of both the Left and Right in defending our freedoms.