Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Intrusive unconstitutional policing is intrusive and unconstitutional

It's not a healthy sign for our democracy in general that we're willing to put up with abuses at the hands of leaders we "trust" rather than demand that the rule of law apply across the board. All of a sudden we're realizing under Trump that maybe it wasn't such a great idea to let the Obama Administration suppress whistle-blowers, spy on, indefinitely detain, and even assassinate American citizens. But that's precisely what happened.  In my more optimistic moments, I wonder if Trump is maybe the reducto-ad-absurdum argument we need to finally blow apart the imperial presidency and surveillance state.  But that's probably not what will happen. More likely we'll gripe for a few years until we put a "responsible" Democrat in charge of the same dreadful regime plus whatever new horrors Trump will have introduced.

In the meantime, though, at least the fact of Trump is causing us to re-think our rush to install more oppressive policies at the local level.  It may not stop us entirely, but at least it's making us pause to think.
But the bellicosity of President Donald Trump's administration on criminal justice topics and uncertainty over what the next mayoral election may bring has cast a pall over what the plan's long-term consequences might turn out to be.

"I think we need to be hyper-vigilant ," City Councilman Jason Williams said in a recent interview.

Williams' main concern radiates from Mayor Mitch Landrieu's proposal to broaden police surveillance throughout the city, mostly through the deployment of new crime cameras. He does not oppose the mayor's intention to target "hot spot" intersections where crime rates are high. Rather, he worries about what happens after that.

Landrieu's term ends in May 2018. State Attorney General Jeff Landry has clashed with the mayor on several fronts, including over the city's violent crime rate and the administration's policies toward immigration enforcement.

And Trump has christened himself a "law and order" president focused on cracking down on criminals rather than promoting crime prevention policies. He has also made clear that he wants to target immigrant populations.

Those policies, combined with access to a citywide camera system, could lead to over-policing or the singling out of specific groups of people, Williams said. He also was worried that any focus on immigration enforcement, which typically falls under federal jurisdiction, would further strain a famously depleted police department.

"If (a presidential) executive order deputizes our police officers to make immigration (enforcement) a priority over the needs we have, then I'm afraid we don't have the manpower," he said.
Incidentally, one might also consider this with regard to the proposed rental registry.  It's not too far fetched to imagine Jeff Landry deciding he wants housing inspectors to also ask about tenants' immigration status, for example. Not that the registry law allows him to do that. But once you've already violated the Fourth Amendment by entering people's homes, you've agreed it's at least conceivable.

You'd think somewhere along the line we'd make the leap from, "A mean person shouldn't have such broad surveillance power" to "No one should," but we never quite get there.  Anyway, this is a bit better for now.  

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