Officially, the basic rule in the United States of America is still that “searches conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment — subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions.” (Arizona v. Gant, 129 S.Ct. 1710, 1716, 2009 Daily Journal D.A.R. 5611 (2009).)
In 1968, the United States Supreme Court said,
This inestimable right of personal security belongs as much to the citizen on the streets of our cities as to the homeowner closeted in his study to dispose of his secret affairs. For, as this Court has always recognized,
No right is held more sacred, or is more carefully guarded, by the common law, than the right of every individual to the possession and control of his own person, free from all restraint or interference of others, unless by clear and unquestionable authority of law.
(Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 8-9, 88 S.Ct. 1868 (1968), quoting Union Pac. R. Co. v. Botsford, 141 U.S. 250, 251, 11 S.Ct. 1000, 1001, 35 L.Ed. 734 (1891).)
But as Bill O’Reilly would say, “That’s what the people who are paid for hating America want you to think.”
According to O’Reilly, “once riddled with violent crime, New York is now largely safe, thanks to aggressive policing.” The police in New York are “proactive” about crime, stopping it before it occurs. O’Reilly goes on to point out that “thousands of lives have been saved.” Sounds pretty good! I want to know more about this “proactive” policing!
As it turns out, “proactive policing to stop crime before it occurs” means “if we see someone on the street and we’re not busy with something else, we’ll stop ‘em, frisk ‘em, question ‘em.” About nine out of every ten of them will be completely innocent of any crimes; they’re just minding their own business, going about their ordinary daily lives; those nice docile submitizens will be allowed to continue on their way. They shouldn’t really mind that, should they, if they have nothing to hide?
Meanwhile, thanks to the cooperation of those nine out of ten, New York — and AmeriKa! — will be a safer place.
How will we decide which of the people we see walking down the street to stop? Well, apparently one of the major pieces of criteria is skin color. African-Americans are stopped much more frequently than white.
“What do you want from us?,” O’Reilly seems to ask. “Sixty-nine percent of New York City violent crime victims, describe their assailants as ‘black.’” Only “five percent are described by the victims as ‘white.’” So, again, “what do you want from us?”
It’s hard to believe O’Reilly actually says this, but he says, “If you’re investigating and trying to stop crimes, to whom would you be talking?”
BLACK PEOPLE! I mean, come on!
There are a couple of problems here, of course, not the least of which is the constitutionally-endorsed belief that
It [a public stop and frisk of a citizen] is a serious intrusion upon the sanctity of the person, which may inflict great indignity and arouse strong resentment, and it is not to be undertaken lightly. (Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S. at 17.)
The second is the implication that because just over two-thirds of victims report (sometimes mistakenly) that their assailants were black, the overwhelming majority of the 151,000 people stopped in the first three months of 2009 should be, too. Makes sense, doesn’t it? A disproportional representation among the accused seems to me like it should justify impugning an entire class of people, ninety percent of whom will be found to be completely innocent once they are publicly stopped, frisked and interrogated.
To add insult to…well, um…insult, O’Reilly sandwiches his complaint about those people hating America by objecting to these stops in between his complaints about the government risking the lives of our soldiers by releasing images of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo. And in exactly the same way that the government risks the lives of these soldiers by releasing the photos, so do the haters of America who object to stopping African-Americans for no good reason endanger the lives of those of us at home.
Americans, our problem isn’t Black Terrorists. It’s the Black Plague of neo-conservatism that threatens us. Innocent African-Americans and their supporters who object to these unreasonable searches and seizures — yes, I know, when the police stop people walking down the street and refuse to let them go about their business unmolested for a period of time, we prefer to call that a “detention” — anyway, innocent African-Americans and their supporters who object to these unreasonable searches and “detentions” aren’t what we should fear.
The ones we should fear are the “clear-thinking Americans” who seem to believe that by being a proponent of the foundational principles of our nation, the rest of us are “hating America.”