Friday, June 06, 2008


Police across the country watch as DC sets up a US police state

by Larry Geller

Washington DC may soon become a state. A police state.

This report from today's Democracy Now! sent chills up my spine, but you can bet that police departments across the country are watching eagerly. They want to see if Washington DC cops can successfully pull this off:

D.C. Police Set Up Neighborhood Checkpoints

The Washington Examiner reports police in Washington, D.C. plan to begin sealing off entire neighborhoods, setting up checkpoints and kicking out strangers, under a new program to combat violence. Under a directive issued by Police Chief Cathy Lanier, officers will stop cars at the checkpoints, record all license plate numbers and ask drivers why they are visiting the neighborhood. The directive allows officers to turn away anyone who does not have a legitimate reason for entering the neighborhood. Motorists who resist answering questions from police officers will be arrested for failure to obey an officer. D.C. Councilman Harry Thomas said he is worried Washington, D.C. is “moving towards a police state."

I can identify with this. When I lived in Japan I often had to fly back to meetings at my company's headquarters near Washington DC. I can't imagine being stopped by a cop and questioned about why I am driving anywhere in DC, or anywhere in this country for that matter.

I was once harassed driving to my hotel in Bethesda. If asked where I was going, in those days I'd probably just have cooperated and replied. But I've evolved. If they stopped me now, I don't think I would grant them the right to take away my civil liberties. You noticed that part at the end of the article, "Motorists who resist answering questions from police officers will be arrested for failure to obey an officer"?

The ACLU may take action and the courts, if necessary, will later rule that the action was unconstitutional. Predictably, the police won't even apologize and will just plan their next unconstitutional crackdown. There are effectively no consequences if police violate your civil liberties (or shoot you full of 50 bullets on your wedding day, for that matter, to shift the venue momentarily to New York).

Since the police checkpoint action won't be effective in deterring crime in the troubled Trinidad area of DC (all entry points aren't being blocked—yet, nor will pedestrians be stopped), it seems to be mainly an experiment in how far the police can go in imposing martial law on ordinary citizens.

Kauai police also arming themselves for "riots"

Even in peaceful Hawaii we find, for example, that the Kauai police department, under new leadership, is bulking up with riot gear and Taser weapons (see the bottom of Joan Conrow's article, Musings: Pathogens for discussion and links).

We can bet that they will be following events in DC very closely. What will heavy riot gear be used for on Kauai? Who might end up as target practice for the Tasers? How far can they go? The illegal DC checkpoints may give them some hints.

Do we believe that our civil liberties will magically be preserved if we don't take steps to safeguard them? The evidence shows otherwise.


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