One unwelcome side effect of shifting power away from individuals and toward the government is the unwarranted use — in either sense — of police authority and force.
Not all police, naturally, abuse their office. Police help by enforcing the rule of law upon which full enjoyment of our rights absolutely depends. I know this well; my now-retired uncle faithfully served his community as a cop. So long as police act on behalf of the citizens who employ them, they are a good and necessary part of society.
But police forces are made of people, and people are complex. In this, as in every walk of life, some are decent, hardworking and caring, others are not. The former are a credit to their vocation; the latter are a blight.
Two news stories will highlight the problem. In the first, a Nevada family is suing for violations of their Third Amendment rights. Initially, police told the homeowner to let them in. He chose not to comply with this demand.
The police broke down the door, entered the home, weapons raised, called the occupant profanities, told him to get on the floor, turn off his phone, and crawl toward the officers. He remained prone and cowering on the floor. Then both he and his dog were hit with pepperball rounds. Police actually charged him with “obstruction”.
There was no warrant to enter the home. They had, in fact, no interest in him as a suspect. They wanted to use his home for a “tactical advantage” over the neighbor accused of causing a domestic disturbance.
That was the first case. The second case should have familiar echoes to it because similar scenarios have arisen with states of emergency elsewhere.
You may have heard of the serious flooding that submerged downtown Calgary recently. Calgary was not the only center affected. The small town of High River — population 12,000 — faced a mandatory evacuation due to their massive flooding. The town was emptied, and law enforcement prevented locals from returning to their homes until the emergency evacuation order was lifted.
There was outrage when the public learned that the national police (RCMP) forcibly entered locked homes searching for, and collecting firearms. There was no warrant to enter the homes, search the residences, or confiscate anything. Their stated reason (after the fact) was that they entered the homes to ensure compliance with the mandatory evacuation order, and they took only improperly secured weapons (this has been disputed) or firearms in plain sight. What reason was the public given?
“We just want to make sure that all of those things are in a spot that we control, simply because of what they are. People have a significant amount of money invested in firearms … so we put them in a place that we control and that they’re safe.” — Sgt. Brian Topham
Do you find the explanation convincing? No? Neither did many High River residents. (Inadequacies of this explanation are addressed here.)
Officers claimed they were protecting guns from looters while a security perimeter (including spike belts) prevented civilians from returning to town. So, ironically, the only looting that took place was the unwarranted seizure of guns from homes. Reports are suggesting that even “emergency” circumstances would not grant them such authority for confiscation. If so, the police are in breach of the very law they are sworn to uphold.