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Tell us again, which side won the Cold War?

(The New Police State)

Dear Mr. Quillen,

     Your Denver Post column of April 29, 2001, reproduced below, is accurate as to the subject but I would put the date sometime in 1988 when Denver made arrests for a misdemeanor mandatory in many cases. Or perhaps 1994 would be more accurate when the Colorado legislature extended mandatory, warrantless arrests for misdemeanors to the entire state while simultaneously eliminating presumption of innocence, denying the accused the right to confront their accuser and obtain witnesses in their defense, and implementing punishment and imprisonment that occurs before a trial or hearing.  And , as you note, in the process allowing the police full right to search their homes without a warrant, together with the terrifying implications of the Racketeer-Influenced Corrupt Organization (R.I.C.O.) act that may be invoked to further encourage such police activities.
     You should be aware that, for misdemeanors, Colorado citizens by the thousands are now taken in handcuffs from their homes and children every year, without any pretense of a warrant, with nothing more than the clothes on their back, jailed, and denied the right to return home without so much as a hearing. Often such draconian actions are based on nothing more than hearsay and are commonly taken over the objections and protests of the supposedly injured party.
     As a former Marine during the Cold War, and as the father of a son who is a disabled veteran of the Marine Corps, I too am curious as to who won? And, as a leading citizen of this state and nation, I too ask what happened to the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, my son and I swore to defend against all enemies foreign and domestic?
     Are the actions above, and described in your article, the ideals John Corry, Jr. stood for on the Lexington Green with Capt. Parker's company of Minutemen that fateful April morning in 1775? Or that Thomas Corry sought when he fought for Sam Houston at San Jacinto? Or that all the many other Corries fought and died for in every war our country has known? I think not!

Charles E. Corry, Ph.D., F.G.S.A.               
455 Bear Creek Road     
Colorado Springs, CO 80906-5820             
Telephone:   (719) 520-1089
Facsimile:         (509) 472-5275
Instant Messenger:         drcecorry
E-mail:         mailto:ccorry@pcisys.net
Home page: http://boulder.earthnet.net/~ccorry
Domestic Violence Against Men: http://www.dvmen.org


Tell us again, which side won the Cold War?
http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1002,150%257E27131,00.html
By Ed Quillen
Denver Post Columnist
Sunday, April 29, 2001
Reproduced under the Fair Use provisions of 17 USC Sec. 107 for noncommercial, educational use.

It's hard to predict just which date a future historian will find significant, but when the book "How America Became a Police State" is written, last Tuesday will doubtless get prominent mention. On April 24, 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court further empowered police by ruling that police do not have to get a warrant before arresting someone for a minor traffic offense. The offense at issue was committed by a Texas woman, Gail Atwater, who let her children ride in a pickup without buckling their seat belts. A cop noticed the unbelted kids and pulled her over. Instead of just issuing a citation, he arrested her - the full drill with handcuffs and a trip to the police station, where she had to post bond before she could be released from jail. Once you're under arrest, the police have the right to search the immediate premises, without the trouble of finding a compliant judge to issue a search warrant. So, we start with a minor traffic offense, which causes an arrest, followed by the power to search without getting a warrant. Does this violate the Fourth Amendment, which holds that "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated."?

By a 5-4 margin the U.S. Supreme Court said there's no violation of the Fourth Amendment if a cop sees you change lanes without using your turn signal, pulls you over, cuffs you and hauls you to jail, and searches your car.

Even Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a Reagan appointee, was appalled by this reasoning. "A minor traffic infraction may often serve as an excuse for stopping and harassing an individual," she wrote. "After today, the arsenal available to any officer extends to a full arrest and the searches permissible concomitant to that arrest."

So they search you and find some cash in your wallet. Since about 80 percent of the paper money in the United States carries traces of cocaine, the odds are high that you're transporting drugs in a zero-tolerance legal system.

They can confiscate your money and car, and the litigation to get your property returned is long and expensive.

And the beauty of this, from the police perspective, is that they get to keep the money for their own purposes. They can sell the car, or if it's something cool like a Corvette or a Mercedes, they can keep it for "official purposes" like the police chief going to and from work.

Most states recognize the possibility for abuse in this arrangement, and some require the money to go to the general fund or to fund education, not the law-enforcement agency in question.

But there's a way around this for your friendly local cops who covet cars and money. They invite the feds to participate in the arrest. The proceeds then go into the "Federal Drug Enforcement Forfeiture Fund," and 80 percent of that money goes back to the participating local law-enforcement agency.

Thus police are able to fund themselves by arrests and seizures, and the "power of the purse" that elected bodies are supposed to exercise has been rendered impotent.

Nor should we forget that in Denver, if a police officer dies, the district attorney will find someone to hang, even if that someone was in police custody at the time - just ask Lisl Auman.

But if a citizen dies as a result of police gunfire, the district attorney starts applying whitewash by the barrel - just ask the surviving relatives of Jeff Truax and Ismael Mena.

And there are the special rights available to the police when they're questioning you. It's illegal for you to lie to the police because you're thereby obstructing justice. But the courts have held that it's legal for the police to lie to you. Talk about a stacked deck.

Add all this up, and we live in a country where there are thousands of laws, so many that it's impossible to avoid breaking one or more of them on a simple errand like going to the post office.

And once you're seen breaking even the least of these laws, you can be arrested and searched, and be questioned by people who have the right to deceive you while holding you accountable for every word. And then your money and property can be confiscated, and the police get to keep the proceeds for their own purposes. And the courts will not protect you.

When I was a schoolboy during the peak years of the Cold War, they told us that this was how the Soviet Union operated - it was a police state, not a nation where individuals had constitutional rights.

So you have to wonder these days just which side really won the Cold War. American police aren't there to protect your life, liberty or property - they're a threat to all three, and nothing appears likely to stop this from getting even worse.
Ed Quillen of Salida, Colorado ( mailto:cozine@chaffee.net ) is a former newspaper editor whose column appears Tuesday and Sunday.

 

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