05 December 2005

How Police States Begin

Given the tenor of our time, and the slow but steady encroachments on constitutional rights made in the name of security, this is disturbing news indeed. CBC reports (and where is the rest of the mainstream media on this one?) that
Police are conducting searches of houses and apartments in Parkdale as they try to identify a woman whose dismembered remains were found last month. ... Officers are going door to door in Parkdale, asking residents if they can look through their homes — and in some cases, their freezers — as they search for clues. Police point out that it's the same strategy that helped them identify the man now charged in the abduction and murder of nine-year-old Holly Jones in 2003. In that case, the man who was eventually charged with Holly's murder was one of just a few local residents who refused to let police search his home in a similar sweep.
Essentially what is happening is this: Police knock on your door and ask for your consent to search your premises without a warrant. If you refuse, that is if you exercise your constitutional rights, you will be considered a suspect, and clearly subject to more rigorous, onerous, and disruptive processes of investigation. Effectively, there is tacit coercion to abdicate your rights in the face of an implied threat of considerable future harassment. People "volunteer" because of the tacit, but clear consequences of not "volunteering."

Because of the implicit threat (not to mention the de facto intimidation of two large and armed policemen showing up unexpectedly at one's door), it can be argued that the so-called consent to enter is not given freely. I would guess that a good defense lawyer would be able to successfully argue that any fruits of such a search would be inadmissible as evidence, since consent was arguably not freely given (i.e. without coercion, and full understanding of consequences). Beside this, such actions promulgate the police state mentality of "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."

Among the principles of a democratic society is the rule of law, that is, no one is above the laws of the land. That especially includes those among the population who are given special permission to be armed in public, to effect arrests, and to inflict the weight of the judiciary on any individual. Bypassing due process of law in the name of expediency is the beginning of a long decline in the direction of fascism. Or, to paraphrase the cliché, if you have nothing to hide, you have EVERYTHING to fear if authorities nonetheless decide that you are hiding something. Just ask these people.

Update: The Toronto Star covers the story here.
"This type of investigation is problematic. We feel this is a significant intrusion," said Alexi Wood of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. "Armed police officers are asking to be let into homes. We've had at least one call from a member very upset, feeling the police are being very intimidating with this type of activity."

Wood, of the civil liberties group, said she sees no problem with officers knocking on doors and talking to people about what happened to gather more information, but asking to look inside the home crosses the line. "Some people think if they don't let the police in, there could be consequences," Wood said. People can choose to exercise their right to refuse an officer entry, she said.

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1 comment:

ParkdaleTenants said...

The same thing happened with the Holly Jones murder where police were trying to get DNA from hundreds of local men saying that they must have something to hide and that "if you are innocent your DNA test will be destroyed" though there is no evidence that was ever done.

It is just like it is the rule in Toronto that if you are questioned by police but never charged or found guilty they are supposed to destroy the info on you after 3 years but the police are very open that they refuse to abide by the rules because they say it is for the public good!

It seems Toronto police love to get personal information on as many people as possible because if you aren't a criminal you have nothing to fear. Nothing to fear but a police state.