Posts Tagged ‘police’

“Crush! Kill! Destroy!”—The Robot, Lost in Space

The purpose of a good government is to protect the lives and liberties of its people.

Unfortunately, we have gone so far in the opposite direction from the ideals of a good government that it’s hard to see how this trainwreck can be redeemed.

It gets worse by the day.

For instance, despite an outcry by civil liberties groups and concerned citizens alike, in an 8-3 vote on Nov. 29, 2022, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a proposal to allow police to arm robots with deadly weapons for use in emergency situations.

This is how the slippery slope begins.

According to the San Francisco Police Department’s draft policy, “Robots will only be used as a deadly force option when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available to SFPD.”

Yet as investigative journalist Sam Biddle points out, this is “what nearly every security agency says when it asks the public to trust it with an alarming new power: We’ll only use it in emergencies—but we get to decide what’s an emergency.”

last-minute amendment to the SFPD policy limits the decision-making authority for deploying robots as a deadly force option to high-ranking officers, and only after using alternative force or de-escalation tactics, or concluding they would not be able to subdue the suspect through those alternative means.

In other words, police now have the power to kill with immunity using remote-controlled robots.

These robots, often acquired by local police departments through federal grants and military surplus programs, signal a tipping point in the final shift from a Mayberry style of community policing to a technologically-driven version of law enforcement dominated by artificial intelligence, surveillance, and militarization.

It’s only a matter of time before these killer robots intended for use as a last resort become as common as SWAT teams.

Frequently justified as vital tools necessary to combat terrorism and deal with rare but extremely dangerous criminal situations, such as those involving hostages, SWAT teams—which first appeared on the scene in California in the 1960s—have now become intrinsic parts of local law enforcement operations, thanks in large part to substantial federal assistance and the Pentagon’s military surplus recycling program, which allows the transfer of military equipment, weapons and training to local police for free or at sharp discounts.

Consider this: In 1980, there were roughly 3,000 SWAT team-style raids in the U.S. By 2014, that number had grown to more than 80,000 SWAT team raids per year.

Given the widespread use of these SWAT teams and the eagerness with which police agencies have embraced them, it’s likely those raids number upwards of 120,000 by now.

There are few communities without a SWAT team today.

No longer reserved exclusively for deadly situations, SWAT teams are now increasingly deployed for relatively routine police matters, with some SWAT teams being sent out as much as five times a day. In the state of Maryland alone, 92 percent of 8200 SWAT missions were used to execute search or arrest warrants.

For example, police in both Baltimore and Dallas have used SWAT teams to bust up poker games. A Connecticut SWAT team swarmed a bar suspected of serving alcohol to underage individuals. In Arizona, a SWAT team was used to break up an alleged cockfighting ring. An Atlanta SWAT team raided a music studio, allegedly out of a concern that it might have been involved in illegal music piracy.

A Minnesota SWAT team raided the wrong house in the middle of the night, handcuffed the three young children, held the mother on the floor at gunpoint, shot the family dog, and then “forced the handcuffed children to sit next to the carcass of their dead pet and bloody pet for more than an hour” while they searched the home.

A California SWAT team drove an armored Lenco Bearcat into Roger Serrato’s yard, surrounded his home with paramilitary troops wearing face masks, threw a fire-starting flashbang grenade into the house, then when Serrato appeared at a window, unarmed and wearing only his shorts, held him at bay with rifles. Serrato died of asphyxiation from being trapped in the flame-filled house. Incredibly, the father of four had done nothing wrong. The SWAT team had misidentified him as someone involved in a shooting.

These incidents are just the tip of the iceberg.

Nationwide, SWAT teams have been employed to address an astonishingly trivial array of nonviolent criminal activity or mere community nuisances: angry dogs, domestic disputes, improper paperwork filed by an orchid farmer, and misdemeanor marijuana possession, to give a brief sampling.

If these raids are becoming increasingly common and widespread, you can chalk it up to the “make-work” philosophy, by which police justify the acquisition of sophisticated military equipment and weapons and then rationalize their frequent use.

Mind you, SWAT teams originated as specialized units that were supposed to be dedicated to defusing extremely sensitive, dangerous situations (that language is almost identical to the language being used to rationalize adding armed robots to local police agencies). They were never meant to be used for routine police work such as serving a warrant.

As the role of paramilitary forces has expanded, however, to include involvement in nondescript police work targeting nonviolent suspects, the mere presence of SWAT units has actually injected a level of danger and violence into police-citizen interactions that was not present as long as these interactions were handled by traditional civilian officers. 

Indeed, a study by Princeton University concludes that militarizing police and SWAT teams “provide no detectable benefits in terms of officer safety or violent crime reduction.” The study, the first systematic analysis on the use and consequences of militarized force, reveals that “police militarization neither reduces rates of violent crime nor changes the number of officers assaulted or killed.”

In other words, warrior cops aren’t making us or themselves any safer.

Americans are now eight times more likely to die in a police confrontation than they are to be killed by a terrorist.

The problem, as one reporter rightly concluded, is “not that life has gotten that much more dangerous, it’s that authorities have chosen to respond to even innocent situations as if they were in a warzone.”

Now add killer robots into that scenario.

How long before these armed, militarized robots, authorized to use lethal force against American citizens, become as commonplace as SWAT teams and just as deadly?

Likewise, how long before mistakes are made, technology gets hacked or goes haywire, robots are deployed based on false or erroneous information, and innocent individuals get killed in the line of fire?

And who will shoulder the blame and the liability for rogue killer robots? Given the government’s track record when it comes to sidestepping accountability for official misconduct through the use of qualified immunity, it’s completely feasible that they’d get a free pass here, too.

In the absence of any federal regulations or guidelines to protect Americans against what could eventually become autonomous robotic SWAT teams equipped with artificial intelligence, surveillance and lethal weapons, “we the people” are left defenseless.

We’re gaining ground fast on the kind of autonomous, robotic assassins that Terminator envisioned would be deployed by 2029.

If these killer robots follow the same trajectory as militarized weapons, which, having been deployed to local police agencies as part of the Pentagon’s 1033 recycling program, are turning America into a battlefield, it’s just a matter of time before they become the first line of defense in interactions between police and members of the public.

Some within the robotics industry have warned against weaponizing general-purpose robots, which could be used “to invade civil rights or to threaten, harm, or intimidate others.”

Yet it may already be too late for that.

As Sam Biddle writes for The Intercept, “As with any high-tech toy, the temptation to use advanced technology may surpass whatever institutional guardrails the police have in place.”

There are thousands of police robots across the country, and those numbers are growing exponentially. It won’t take much in the way of weaponry and programming to convert these robots to killer robots, and it’s coming.

The first time police used a robot as a lethal weapon was in 2016, when it was deployed with an explosive device to kill a sniper who had shot and killed five police officers.

This scenario has been repeatedly trotted out by police forces eager to add killer robots to their arsenal of deadly weapons. Yet as Paul Scharre, author of Army Of None: Autonomous Weapons And The Future Of War, recognizes, presenting a scenario in which the only two options are to use a robot for deadly force or put law enforcement officers at risk sets up a false choice that rules out any consideration of non-lethal options.

As Biddle concludes:

“Once a technology is feasible and permitted, it tends to linger. Just as drones, mine-proof trucks, and Stingray devices drifted from Middle Eastern battlefields to American towns, critics of … police’s claims that lethal robots would only be used in one-in-a-million public emergencies isn’t borne out by history. The recent past is littered with instances of technologies originally intended for warfare mustered instead against, say, constitutionally protected speech, as happened frequently during the George Floyd protests.”

This gradual dismantling of cultural, legal and political resistance to what was once considered unthinkable is what Liz O’Sullivan, a member of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, refers to as “a well-executed playbook to normalize militarization.”

It’s the boiling frog analogy all over again, and yet there’s more at play than just militarization or suppressing dissent.

There’s a philosophical underpinning to this debate over killer robots that we can’t afford to overlook, and that is the government’s expansion of its power to kill the citizenry.

Although the government was established to protect the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of the American people, the Deep State has been working hard to strip us of any claims to life and liberty, while trying to persuade us that happiness can be found in vapid pursuits, entertainment spectacles and political circuses.

Having claimed the power to kill through the use of militarized police who shoot first and ask questions later, SWAT team raids, no-knock raids, capital punishment, targeted drone attacks, grisly secret experiments on prisoners and unsuspecting communities, weapons of mass destruction, endless wars, etc., the government has come to view “we the people” as collateral damage in its pursuit of absolute power.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we are at a dangerous crossroads.

Not only are our lives in danger. Our very humanity is at stake.

Source: https://bit.ly/3FfAVMw

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

For soldiers … coming home is more lethal than being in combat.” ― Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston

The U.S. government is still waging war on America’s military veterans.

Especially veterans who exercise their First Amendment right to speak out against government wrongdoing.

Consider: we raise our young people on a steady diet of militarism and war, sell them on the idea that defending freedom abroad by serving in the military is their patriotic duty, then when they return home, bruised and battle-scarred and committed to defending their freedoms at home, we often treat them like criminals merely for exercising those rights they risked their lives to defend.

As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, the government even has a name for its war on America’s veterans: Operation Vigilant Eagle.

This Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program tracks military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and characterizes them as extremists and potential domestic terrorist threats because they may be “disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war.”

Coupled with the DHS’ dual reports on Rightwing and Leftwing “Extremism,” which broadly define extremists as individuals, military veterans and groups “that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely,” these tactics bode ill for anyone seen as opposing the government.

Yet the government is not merely targeting individuals who are voicing their discontent so much as it is taking aim at individuals trained in military warfare.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that the DHS has gone extremely quiet about Operation Vigilant Eagle.

Where there’s smoke, there’s bound to be fire.

And the government’s efforts to target military veterans whose views may be perceived as “anti-government” make clear that something is afoot.

In recent years, military servicemen and women have found themselves increasingly targeted for surveillance, censorship, threatened with incarceration or involuntary commitment, labeled as extremists and/or mentally ill, and stripped of their Second Amendment rights.

In light of the government’s efforts to lay the groundwork to weaponize the public’s biomedical data and predict who might pose a threat to public safety based on mental health sensor data (a convenient means by which to penalize certain “unacceptable” social behaviors), encounters with the police could get even more deadly, especially if those involved have a mental illness or disability coupled with a military background.

Incredibly, as part of a proposal introduced under the Trump Administration, a new government agency HARPA (a healthcare counterpart to the Pentagon’s research and development arm DARPA) will take the lead in identifying and targeting “signs” of mental illness or violent inclinations among the populace by using artificial intelligence to collect data from Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home.

These tactics are not really new.

Many times throughout history in totalitarian regimes, such governments have declared dissidents mentally ill and unfit for society as a means of rendering them disempowering them.

For example, government officials in the Cold War-era Soviet Union often used psychiatric hospitals as prisons in order to isolate political prisoners from the rest of society, discredit their ideas, and break them physically and mentally through the use of electric shocks, drugs and various medical procedures.

This age-old practice by which despotic regimes eliminate their critics or potential adversaries by declaring them mentally ill and locking them up in psychiatric wards for extended periods of time is a common practice in present-day China.

What is particularly unnerving, however, is how this practice of eliminating or undermining potential critics, including military veterans, is happening with increasing frequency in the United States.

Remember, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) opened the door for the government to detain as a threat to national security anyone viewed as a troublemaker. According to government guidelines for identifying domestic extremists—a word used interchangeably with terrorists—technically, anyone exercising their First Amendment rights in order to criticize the government qualifies.

It doesn’t take much anymore to be flagged as potentially anti-government in a government database somewhere—Main Core, for example—that identifies and tracks individuals who aren’t inclined to march in lockstep to the government’s dictates.

In fact, as the Washington Post reports, communities are being mapped and residents assigned a color-coded threat score—green, yellow or red—so police are forewarned about a person’s potential inclination to be a troublemaker depending on whether they’ve had a career in the military, posted a comment perceived as threatening on Facebook, suffer from a particular medical condition, or know someone who knows someone who might have committed a crime.

The case of Brandon Raub is a prime example of Operation Vigilant Eagle in action.

Raub, a 26-year-old decorated Marine, actually found himself interrogated by government agents about his views on government corruption, arrested with no warning, labeled mentally ill for subscribing to so-called “conspiratorial” views about the government, detained against his will in a psych ward for standing by his views, and isolated from his family, friends and attorneys. Within days of Raub being seized and forcibly held in a VA psych ward, news reports started surfacing of other veterans having similar experiences.

“Oppositional defiance disorder” (ODD) is another diagnosis being used against veterans who challenge the status quo. As journalist Anthony Martin explains, an ODD diagnosis

“denotes that the person exhibits ‘symptoms’ such as the questioning of authority, the refusal to follow directions, stubbornness, the unwillingness to go along with the crowd, and the practice of disobeying or ignoring orders. Persons may also receive such a label if they are considered free thinkers, nonconformists, or individuals who are suspicious of large, centralized government… At one time the accepted protocol among mental health professionals was to reserve the diagnosis of oppositional defiance disorder for children or adolescents who exhibited uncontrollable defiance toward their parents and teachers.”

That the government is using the charge of mental illness as the means by which to immobilize (and disarm) these veterans is diabolical. With one stroke of a magistrate’s pen, these veterans are being declared mentally ill, locked away against their will, and stripped of their constitutional rights.

If it were just being classified as “anti-government,” that would be one thing.

Unfortunately, anyone with a military background and training is also now being viewed as a heightened security threat by police who are trained to shoot first and ask questions later.

Feeding this perception of veterans as ticking time bombs in need of intervention, the Justice Department launched a pilot program in 2012 aimed at training SWAT teams to deal with confrontations involving highly trained and often heavily armed combat veterans.

The result?

Police encounters with military veterans often escalate very quickly into an explosive and deadly situation, especially when SWAT teams are involved.

For example, Jose Guerena, a Marine who served in two tours in Iraq, was killed after an Arizona SWAT team kicked open the door of his home during a mistaken drug raid and opened fire. Thinking his home was being invaded by criminals, Guerena told his wife and child to hide in a closet, grabbed a gun and waited in the hallway to confront the intruders. He never fired his weapon. In fact, the safety was still on his gun when he was killed. The SWAT officers, however, not as restrained, fired 70 rounds of ammunition at Guerena—23 of those bullets made contact. Apart from his military background, Guerena had had no prior criminal record, and the police found nothing illegal in his home.

John Edward Chesney, a 62-year-old Vietnam veteran, was killed by a SWAT team allegedly responding to a call that the Army veteran was standing in his San Diego apartment window waving what looked like a semi-automatic rifle. SWAT officers locked down Chesney’s street, took up positions around his home, and fired 12 rounds into Chesney’s apartment window. It turned out that the gun Chesney reportedly pointed at police from three stories up was a “realistic-looking mock assault rifle.”

Ramon Hooks’ encounter with a Houston SWAT team did not end as tragically, but it very easily could have. Hooks, a 25-year-old Iraq war veteran, was using an air rifle gun for target practice outside when a Homeland Security Agent, allegedly house shopping in the area, reported him as an active shooter. It wasn’t long before the quiet neighborhood was transformed into a war zone, with dozens of cop cars, an armored vehicle and heavily armed police. Hooks was arrested, his air rifle pellets and toy gun confiscated, and charges filed against him for “criminal mischief.”

Given the government’s increasing view of veterans as potential domestic terrorists, it makes one think twice about government programs encouraging veterans to include a veterans designation on their drivers’ licenses and ID cards.

Hailed by politicians as a way to “make it easier for military veterans to access discounts from retailers, restaurants, hotels and vendors across the state,” it will also make it that much easier for the government to identify and target veterans who dare to challenge the status quo.

Remember: no one is spared in a police state.

Eventually, as I make clear in Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we all suffer the same fate.

It stands to reason that if the government can’t be bothered to abide by its constitutional mandate to respect the citizenry’s rights—whether it’s the right to be free from government surveillance and censorship, the right to due process and fair hearings, the right to be free from roadside strip searches and militarized police, or the right to peacefully assemble and protest and exercise our right to free speech—then why should anyone expect the government to treat our nation’s veterans with respect and dignity?

Certainly, veterans have enough physical and psychological war wounds to overcome without adding the government to the mix. Although the U.S. boasts more than 20 million veterans who have served in World War II through the present day, large numbers of veterans are impoverished, unemployed, traumatized mentally and physically, struggling with depression, suicide, and marital stress, homeless, subjected to sub-par treatment at clinics and hospitals, and left to molder while their paperwork piles up within Veterans Administration offices.

At least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017.

On average, 6,000 veterans kill themselves every year. However, a recent study suggests that the rate of suicide among veterans may be more than double what federal officials report annually.

The plight of veterans today—and their treatment at the hands of the U.S. government—remains America’s badge of shame.

Source: https://bit.ly/3hjqgH3

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
—William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming

Things are falling apart.

How much longer we can sustain the fiction that we live in a constitutional republic, I cannot say, but anarchy is being loosed upon the nation.

We are witnessing the unraveling of the American dream one injustice at a time.

Day after day, the government’s crimes against the citizenry grow more egregious, more treacherous and more tragic. And day after day, the American people wake up a little more to the grim realization that they have become captives in a prison of their own making.

No longer a free people, we are now pushed and prodded and watched over by twitchy, hyper-sensitive, easily-spooked armed guards who care little for the rights, humanity or well-being of those in their care.

The death toll is mounting. The carnage is heartbreaking. The public’s faith in the government to do its job—which is to protect our freedoms—is deteriorating.

With alarming regularity, unarmed men, women, children and even pets are being gunned down by the government’s standing army of militarized police who shoot first and ask questions later, and all the government does is shrug and promise to do better.

Things are not getting better.

Patrick Lyoya is dead. The unarmed man was pulled over for having a mismatched license plate and shot in the back of the head while lying on the ground during a struggle with a Michigan police officer.

Donovan Lewis is dead. The 20-year-old unarmed man was sitting up in bed when he was shot and killed by police within a second of their barging through his bedroom door.

Tavis Crane is dead. Police shot the unarmed driver during a traffic stop that arose after his two-year-old daughter threw a plastic candy cane out of the window. When Crane refused to exit his vehicle, police climbed into the backseat of the parked car, placed Crane in a chokehold, and shot him repeatedly.

Justine Damond is dead. The 40-year-old yoga instructor was shot and killed by Minneapolis police, allegedly because they were startled by a loud noise in the vicinity just as she approached their patrol car. Damond, clad in pajamas, had called 911 to report a possible assault in her neighborhood.

Ismael Lopez is dead. The 41-year-old auto mechanic was shot and killed by Mississippi police who went to the wrong address looking for a suspect in connection with an aggravated domestic violence case. Police also shot the man’s dog, which had raced out of the house ahead of him.

Mary Knowlton is dead. The 73-year-old retired librarian was shot and killed by Florida police during a “shoot/don’t shoot” role-playing scenario when police inadvertently used a loaded gun intended for training.

Andrew Scott is dead. Although the 26-year-old homeowner had committed no crime and never fired a single bullet or lifted his firearm against police, he was gunned down by Florida police who were investigating a speeding incident by engaging in a middle-of-the-night “knock and talk” in Scott’s apartment complex.

Richard Ferretti is dead. The 52-year-old chef was shot and killed by Philadelphia police while trying to find a parking spot. Police had been alerted to investigate a purple Dodge Caravan that was driving “suspiciously” through the neighborhood.

Charleena Lyles is dead. The pregnant, 30-year-old mother of four had called the police to report a stolen Xbox video game unit. She was shot and killed by Seattle police after they arrived at her home to find her holding a knife.

In every one of these scenarios, police could have resorted to less lethal tactics.

They could have acted with reason and calculation instead of reacting with a killer instinct.

They could have attempted to de-escalate and defuse whatever perceived “threat” caused them to fear for their lives enough to react with lethal force.

That police instead chose to fatally resolve these encounters by using their guns on fellow citizens speaks volumes about what is wrong with policing in America today, where police officers are being dressed in the trappings of war, drilled in the deadly art of combat, and trained to look upon “every individual they interact with as an armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making.”

Remember, to a hammer, all the world looks like a nail.

We’re not just getting hammered, however. We’re getting killed, execution-style.

It no longer matters whether you’re innocent of any wrongdoing or guilty as sin: when you’re dealing with police who shoot first and ask questions later, due process—the constitutional assurance of a fair trial before an impartial jury—means nothing.

All the individuals who have been shot and killed by police—fired at three and four and five times in a split second—have already been tried, found guilty and sentenced to death. And in that split second of deciding whether to shoot and where to aim, the nation’s police officers have appointed themselves judge, jury and executioner over their fellow citizens.

In this way, we’re seen as nothing more than animals and treated as such.

In fact, we’re being gunned down like dogs.

Consider that a dog is shot by a police officer “every 98 minutes.”

The Department of Justice estimates that at least 25 dogs are killed by police every day. 

Spike, a 70-pound pit bull, was shot by NYPD police when they encountered him in the hallway of an apartment building in the Bronx. Surveillance footage shows the dog, tail wagging, right before an officer shot him in the head at pointblank range.

Arzy, a 14-month-old Newfoundland, Labrador and golden retriever mix, was shot between the eyes by a Louisiana police officer. The dog had been secured on a four-foot leash at the time he was shot. An independent witness testified that the dog never gave the officer any provocation to shoot him.

Seven, a St. Bernard, was shot repeatedly by Connecticut police in the presence of the dog’s 12-year-old owner. Police, investigating an erroneous tip, had entered the property—without a warrant—where the dog and her owner had been playing in the backyard, causing the dog to give chase.

Dutchess, a 2-year-old rescue dog, was shot three times in the head by Florida police as she ran out her front door. The officer had been approaching the house to inform the residents that their car door was open when the dog bounded out to greet him.

Yanna, a 10-year-old boxer, was shot three times by Georgia police after they mistakenly entered the wrong home and opened fire, killing the dog, shooting the homeowner in the leg and wounding an investigating officer.

Clearly, it doesn’t take much for a cop to shoot a dog.

Dogs shot and killed by police have been “guilty” of nothing more menacing than wagging their tails, barking in greeting, or merely being in their own yard. 

According to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, all it takes for dogs to pose a sufficient threat to police to justify them opening fire is for the dog to move or bark.

A dog doesn’t even have to be an aggressive breed to be shot by a cop.

Radley Balko has documented countless “dog shootings in which a police officer said he felt ‘threatened’ and had no choice but to use lethal force, including the killing of a Dalmatian (more than once), a yellow Lab , a springer spaniel, a chocolate Lab, a boxer, an Australian cattle dog, a Wheaten terrier, an Akita… a Jack Russell terrier… a 12-pound miniature dachshund… [and] a five-pound chihuahua.”

Chihuahuas, among the smallest breed of dog (known as “purse” dogs), seem to really push cops over the edge.

In Arkansas, for example, a sheriff’s deputy shot an “aggressive” chihuahua for barking repeatedly. The dog required surgery for a shattered jaw and a feeding tube to eat.

Same thing happened in Texas, except Trixie—who was on the other side of a fence from the officer—didn’t survive the shooting.

Let’s put this in perspective, shall we?

We’re being asked to believe that a police officer, fully armed, trained in combat and equipped to deal with the worst case scenario when it comes to violence, is so threatened by a yipping purse dog weighing less than 10 pounds that the only recourse is to shoot the dog.

Compounding the tragedy, if a cop kills your dog, there will be little to no consequences for that officer. Not even a slap on the wrist.

In this, as in so many instances of official misconduct by government officials, the courts have ruled that the cops have qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that incentivizes government officials to engage in lawless behavior without fear of repercussions. As a side note: if you happen to kill a police dog, you could face a longer prison sentence than if you’d murdered someone or abused a child.

This is the heartless, heartbreaking, hypocritical injustice that passes for law and order in America today.

Whether you’re talking about police shooting dogs or citizens, the mindset is the same: a rush to violence, abuse of power, fear for officer safety, poor training in how to de-escalate a situation, and general carelessness.

This is the same mindset that sees nothing wrong with American citizens being subjected to roadside strip searches, forcible blood draws, invasive surveillance, secret government experiments, and other morally reprehensible tactics.

Unfortunately, this is the fallout from teaching police to assume the worst-case scenario and react with fear to anything that poses the slightest threat (imagined or real). This is what comes from teaching police to view themselves as soldiers on a battlefield and those they’re supposed to serve as enemy combatants. This is the end result of a lopsided criminal justice system that fails to hold the government and its agents accountable for misconduct.

So what’s to be done about all of this?

Essentially, it comes down to training and accountability.

It’s the difference between police officers who rank their personal safety above everyone else’s and police officers who understand that their jobs are to serve and protect.

It’s the difference between police who are trained to shoot to kill, and police trained to resolve situations peacefully.

Most of all, it’s the difference between police who believe the law is on their side and police who know that they will be held to account for their actions under the same law as everyone else.

This is no longer a debate over good cops and bad cops.

It’s a tug-of-war between the constitutional republic America’s founders intended and the police state we are fast becoming.

So how do we fix what’s broken, stop the senseless shootings and bring about lasting reform?

For starters, stop with the scare tactics. In much the same way that American citizens are being cocooned in a climate of fear by a government that knows exactly which buttons to push in order to gain the public’s cooperation and compliance, police officers are also being indoctrinated with the psychology of fear. Despite the propaganda being peddled by the government and police unions, police today experience less on-the-job fatalities than they ever have historically.

Second, level the playing field. Police lives are no more valuable than any other citizen’s. Whether or not they wield a gun, police officers are public servants like all other government officials, which means that they work for us. While police are entitled to every protection afforded under the law, the same as any other citizen, they should not be afforded any special privileges. They certainly should not be shielded from accountability for misconduct by the courts and the legislatures.

Third, require that police officers be trained in non-lethal tactics. According to the New York Times, the training regimens at nearly all of the nation’s police academies continue to emphasize military-style exercises, with the average young officer made to undergo 58 hours of firearms training and 49 hours of defensive tactical training, but only eight hours of de-escalation training. If police officers are taking classes in how to shoot, maim and kill, shouldn’t they also be trained in non-lethal force, crisis intervention training on how to deal with the mentally ill, de-escalation techniques to use the lowest level of force possible when responding to a threat, and how to respect their fellow citizens’ constitutional rights?

Fourth, ditch the quasi-military obsession. Police forces were never intended to be standing armies. Yet with police agencies dressing like the military in camouflage and armor, training with the military, using military weapons, riding around in armored vehicles, recruiting military veterans, and even boasting military titles, one would be hard pressed to distinguish between the two. Still, it’s our job to make sure that we can distinguish between the two, and that means keeping the police in their place as civilians—non-military citizens—who are entrusted with protecting our rights.

Fifth, demilitarize. There are many examples of countries where police are not armed and dangerous, and they are no worse off for it. Indeed, their crime rates are low and their police officers are trained to view every citizen as precious.

Sixth, stop making taxpayers pay for police abuses. Some communities are trying to require police to carry their own professional liability insurance. The logic is that if police had to pay out of pocket for their own wrongdoing, they might be more cautious and less inclined to shoot first and ask questions later.

Seventh, support due process for everyone, not just the people in your circle. Remember that you no longer have to be poor, black or guilty to be treated like a criminal in America. All that is required is that you belong to the suspect class—a.k.a. the citizenry—of the American police state. As a de facto member of this so-called criminal class, every U.S. citizen is now guilty until proven innocent.

Finally, we need to do a better job of protecting our four-legged friends. Many states are adopting laws to make canine training mandatory for police officers. As dog behavior counselor Brian Kilcommons noted, police “need to realize they’re there to neutralize, not control… If they have enough money to militarize the police with Humvees, they have enough money to train them not to kill family members. And pets are considered family.”

After all, as the Washington Post points out, while “postal workers regularly encounter both vicious and gregarious dogs on their daily rounds… letter carriers don’t kill dogs, even though they are bitten by the thousands every year. Instead, the Postal Service offers its employees training on how to avoid bites.” Journalist Dale Chappell adds, “Using live dogs, handlers and trainers put postal workers through scenarios to teach them how to read a dog’s behavior and calm a dog, or fend it off, if necessary. Meter readers also have benefited from the same training, drastically reducing incidents of dog bites.”

The Rutherford Institute is working on a program aimed at training police to deescalate their interactions with dogs rather than resorting to lethal force, while providing pet owners with legal resources to better protect the four-legged members of their household.

Yet as I make clear in Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we will continue to be shot down like dogs in the street—unarmed Americans and dogs alike—until we demand that police be given better—and constant—training in nonviolent tactics, serious consequences for police who engage in excessive force, and a seismic shift in how law enforcement agencies and the courts deal with those who transgress.

Source: https://bit.ly/3FuEqiC

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

“This should have never happened. We shouldn’t be living in a society where you call for help and be killed.”— Mother of Damian Daniels, who was shot by police during a wellness check

Think twice before you call the cops to carry out a welfare check on a loved one.

Especially if you value that person’s life.

Particularly if that person is disabled, mentally ill, elderly, autistic, hearing impaired, suffering from dementia, or might have a condition that hinders their ability to understand, communicate or immediately comply with an order.

According to an investigation by The Washington Postcops sent out on welfare checks ended up shooting or killing the very people they were supposed to assist in at least 178 cases over the course of three years.

Atatiana Jefferson was neither disabled, mentally ill, elderly, autistic, hearing impaired, suffering from dementia. The 28-year-old Fort Worth resident was merely awake at 2:30 am, playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew in a house with its lights on and the front door open.

A neighbor, noticing the lights and open door, asked police to do a welfare check on the household. Instead of announcing themselves at the front door, police crept quietly around the house. Hearing noises outside, Jefferson approached her bedroom window to investigate.

Seeing Jefferson through the window, police yelled, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” Within seconds of issuing that order and without identifying themselves, police fired a single shot. Jefferson died on the scene.

Atatiana Jefferson’s death is yet one more grim statistic to add to that growing list of Americans—unarmed, impaired or experiencing a mental health crisis—who have been killed by police trained in the worst-case scenario and thus ready to shoot first and ask questions later.

The officer who fired the shot claimed he did so because he perceived “a threat.”

Be warned: to the armed agents of the America police state, we are all potential threats.

At a time when growing numbers of unarmed people have been shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety, even the most benign encounters with police can have fatal consequences.

For those undergoing a mental health crisis or with special needs whose disabilities may not be immediately apparent, the dangers posed by these so-called wellness checks are even greater.

For example, Walter Wallace Jr.—a troubled 27-year-old black man with a criminal history and mental health issues—died in a hail of bullets fired by two police officers who clearly had not been adequately trained in how to de-escalate encounters with special needs individuals.

Wallace wasn’t unarmed—he was reportedly holding a knife when police confronted him—yet neither cop attempted to use non-lethal weapons on Wallace, who appeared to be in the midst of a mental health crisis. In fact, neither cop even possessed a taser. Wallace, fired upon fourteen times, was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Gay Plack, a 57-year-old Virginia woman with bipolar disorder, was killed after two police officers—sent to do a welfare check on her—entered her home uninvited, wandered through the house shouting her name, kicked open her locked bedroom door, discovered the terrified woman hiding in a dark bathroom and wielding a small axe, and four seconds later, shot her in the stomach.

Four seconds.

That’s all the time it took for the two police officers assigned to check on Plack to decide to use lethal force against her (both cops opened fire on the woman), rather than using non-lethal options (one cop had a Taser, which he made no attempt to use) or attempting to de-escalate the situation.

The police chief defended his officers’ actions, claiming they had “no other option” but to shoot the 5 foot 4 inch “woman with carpal tunnel syndrome who had to quit her job at a framing shop because her hand was too weak to use the machine that cut the mats.”

This is what happens when you indoctrinate the police into believing that their lives and their safety are paramount to anyone else’s: suddenly, everyone and everything else is a threat that must be neutralized or eliminated.

In light of the government’s ongoing efforts to predict who might pose a threat to public safety based on mental health sensor data (tracked by wearable data such as FitBits and Apple Watches and monitored by government agencies such as HARPA, the “Health Advanced Research Projects Agency”), encounters with the police could get even more deadly, especially if those involved have a mental illness or disability.

As Steve Silberman writes for The New York Times “Anyone who cares for someone with a developmental disability, as well as for disabled people themselves [lives] every day in fear that their behavior will be misconstrued as suspicious, intoxicated or hostile by law enforcement.”

Indeed, disabled individuals make up a third to half of all people killed by law enforcement officers. People of color are three times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts. If you’re black and disabled, you’re even more vulnerable.

A study by the Ruderman Family Foundation reports that “disabled individuals make up the majority of those killed in use-of-force cases that attract widespread attention. This is true both for cases deemed illegal or against policy and for those in which officers are ultimately fully exonerated… Many more disabled civilians experience non-lethal violence and abuse at the hands of law enforcement officers.”

For instance, Nancy Schrock called 911 for help after her husband, Tom, who suffered with mental health issues, started stalking around the backyard, upending chairs and screaming about demons. Several times before, police had transported Tom to the hospital, where he was medicated and sent home after 72 hours. This time, Tom was tasered twice. He collapsed, lost consciousness and died.

In South Carolina, police tasered an 86-year-old grandfather reportedly in the early stages of dementia, while he was jogging backwards away from them. Now this happened after Albert Chatfield led police on a car chase, running red lights and turning randomly. However, at the point that police chose to shock the old man with electric charges, he was out of the car, on his feet, and outnumbered by police officers much younger than him.

In Georgia, campus police shot and killed a 21-year-old student who was suffering a mental health crisis. Scout Schultz was shot through the heart by campus police when he approached four of them late one night while holding a pocketknife, shouting “Shoot me!” Although police may have feared for their lives, the blade was still in its closed position.

In Oklahoma, police shot and killed a 35-year-old deaf man seen holding a two-foot metal pipe on his front porch (he used the pipe to fend off stray dogs while walking). Despite the fact that witnesses warned police that Magdiel Sanchez couldn’t hear—and thus comply—with their shouted orders to drop the pipe and get on the ground, police shot the man when he was about 15 feet away from them.

In Maryland, police (moonlighting as security guards) used extreme force to eject a 26-year-old man with Downs Syndrome and a low IQ from a movie theater after the man insisted on sitting through a second screening of a film. Autopsy results indicate that Ethan Saylor died of complications arising from asphyxiation, likely caused by a chokehold.

In Florida, police armed with assault rifles fired three shots at a 27-year-old nonverbal, autistic man who was sitting on the ground, playing with a toy truck. Police missed the autistic man and instead shot his behavioral therapist, Charles Kinsey, who had been trying to get him back to his group home. The therapist, bleeding from a gunshot wound, was then handcuffed and left lying face down on the ground for 20 minutes.

In Texas, police handcuffed, tasered and then used a baton to subdue a 7-year-old student who has severe ADHD and a mood disorder. With school counselors otherwise occupied, school officials called police and the child’s mother to assist after Yosio Lopez started banging his head on a wall. The police arrived first.

In New Mexico, police tasered, then opened fire on a 38-year-old homeless man who suffered from schizophrenia, all in an attempt to get James Boyd to leave a makeshift campsite. Boyd’s death provoked a wave of protests over heavy-handed law enforcement tactics.

In Ohio, police forcefully subdued a 37-year-old bipolar woman wearing only a nightgown in near-freezing temperatures who was neither armed, violent, intoxicated, nor suspected of criminal activity. After being slammed onto the sidewalk, handcuffed and left unconscious on the street, Tanisha Anderson died as a result of being restrained in a prone position.

And in North Carolina, a state trooper shot and killed a 29-year-old deaf motorist after he failed to pull over during a traffic stop. Daniel K. Harris was shot after exiting his car, allegedly because the trooper feared he might be reaching for a weapon.

These cases, and the hundreds—if not thousands—more that go undocumented every year speak to a crisis in policing when it comes to law enforcement’s failure to adequately assess, de-escalate and manage encounters with special needs or disabled individuals.

While the research is relatively scant, what has been happening is telling.

Over the course of six months, police shot and killed someone who was in mental crisis every 36 hours.

Among 124 police killings analyzed by The Washington Post in which mental illness appeared to be a factor, “They were overwhelmingly men, more than half of them white. Nine in 10 were armed with some kind of weapon, and most died close to home.”

But there were also important distinctions, reports the Post.

This group was more likely to wield a weapon less lethal than a firearm. Six had toy guns; 3 in 10 carried a blade, such as a knife or a machete — weapons that rarely prove deadly to police officers. According to data maintained by the FBI and other organizations, only three officers have been killed with an edged weapon in the past decade. Nearly a dozen of the mentally distraught people killed were military veterans, many of them suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their service, according to police or family members. Another was a former California Highway Patrol officer who had been forced into retirement after enduring a severe beating during a traffic stop that left him suffering from depression and PTSD. And in 45 cases, police were called to help someone get medical treatment, or after the person had tried and failed to get treatment on his own.

The U.S. Supreme Court, as might be expected, has thus far continued to immunize police against charges of wrongdoing when it comes to use of force against those with a mental illness.

In a 2015 ruling, the Court declared that police could not be sued for forcing their way into a mentally ill woman’s room at a group home and shooting her five times when she advanced on them with a knife. The justices did not address whether police must take special precautions when arresting mentally ill individuals. (The Americans with Disabilities Act requires “reasonable accommodations” for people with mental illnesses, which in this case might have been less confrontational tactics.)

Where does this leave us?

For starters, we need better police training across the board, but especially when it comes to de-escalation tactics and crisis intervention.

A study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that Crisis Intervention Team-trained officers made fewer arrests, used less force, and connected more people with mental-health services than their non-trained peers.

As The Washington Post points out:

“Although new recruits typically spend nearly 60 hours learning to handle a gun, according to a recent survey by the Police Executive Research Forum, they receive only eight hours of training to de-escalate tense situations and eight hours learning strategies for handling the mentally ill. Otherwise, police are taught to employ tactics that tend to be counterproductive in such encounters, experts said. For example, most officers are trained to seize control when dealing with an armed suspect, often through stern, shouted commands. But yelling and pointing guns is ‘like pouring gasoline on a fire when you do that with the mentally ill,’ said Ron Honberg, policy director with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.”

Second, police need to learn how to slow confrontations down, instead of ramping up the tension (and the noise).

In Maryland, police recruits are now required to take a four-hour course in which they learn “de-escalation tactics” for dealing with disabled individuals: speak calmly, give space, be patient.

One officer in charge of the Los Angeles Police Department’s “mental response teams” suggests that instead of rushing to take someone into custody, police should try to slow things down and persuade the person to come with them.

Third, with all the questionable funds flowing to police departments these days, why not use some of those funds to establish what one disability-rights activist describes as “a 911-type number dedicated to handling mental-health emergencies, with community crisis-response teams at the ready rather than police officers.”

Increasingly, funds are being directed towards technologies that support predictive policing and behavioral and health surveillance. For instance, HARPA (a healthcare counterpart to the Pentagon’s research and development arm DARPA) would take the lead in identifying and targeting “signs” of mental illness or violent inclinations among the populace by using artificial intelligence to collect data from Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home.

It wouldn’t take much for these nascent predictive programs to give rise to healthcare versions of red flag gun laws, which allows the government to preemptively take action against individuals who may be perceived as potential threats. Where the problem arises is when you put the power to determine who is a potential danger in the hands of government agencies, the courts and the police.

In the end, while we need to make encounters with police officers safer for people with suffering from mental illness or with disabilities, what we really need—as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries—is to make encounters with police safer for all individuals all across the board.

Source: https://bit.ly/3MFpMq9

“You know, when police start becoming their own executioners, where’s it gonna end? Pretty soon, you’ll start executing people for jaywalking, and executing people for traffic violations. Then you end up executing your neighbor ‘cause his dog pisses on your lawn.”—“Dirty Harry” Callahan, Magnum Force

When I say that warrior cops—hyped up on their own authority and the power of the badge—have not made America any safer or freer, I am not disrespecting any of the fine, decent, lawful police officers who take seriously their oath of office to serve and protect their fellow citizens, uphold the Constitution, and maintain the peace.

My concern rests with the cops who feel empowered to act as judge, jury and executioner.

These death squads believe they can kill, shoot, taser, abuse and steal from American citizens in the so-called name of law and order.

Just recently, in fact, a rookie cop opened fire on the occupants of a parked car in a McDonald’s parking lot on a Sunday night in San Antonio, Texas.

The driver, 17-year-old Erik Cantu and his girlfriend, were eating burgers inside the car when the police officer—suspecting the car might have been one that fled an attempted traffic stop the night before—abruptly opened the driver side door, ordered the teenager to get out, and when he did not comply, shot ten times at the car, hitting Cantu multiple times.

Mind you, this wasn’t a life-or-death situation.

It was two teenagers eating burgers in a parking lot, and a cop fresh out of the police academy taking justice into his own hands.

This wasn’t an isolated incident, either.

In Hugo, Oklahoma, plain clothes police officers opened fire on a pickup truck parked in front of a food bank, heedless of the damage such a hail of bullets—26 shots were fired—could have on those in the vicinity. Three of the four children inside the parked vehicle were shot: a 4-year-old girl was shot in the head and ended up with a bullet in the brain; a 5-year-old boy received a skull fracture; and a 1-year-old girl had deep cuts on her face from gunfire or shattered window glass. The reason for the use of such excessive force? Police were searching for a suspect in a weeks-old robbery of a pizza parlor that netted $400.

In Minnesota, a 4-year-old girl watched from the backseat of a car as cops shot and killed her mother’s boyfriend, Philando Castile, a school cafeteria supervisor, during a routine traffic stop merely because Castile disclosed that he had a gun in his possession, for which he had a lawful conceal-and-carry permit. That’s all it took for police to shoot Castile four times as he was reaching for his license and registration. 

In Arizona, a 7-year-old girl watched panic-stricken as a state trooper pointed his gun at her and her father during a traffic stop and reportedly threated to shoot her father in the back (twice) based on the mistaken belief that they were driving a stolen rental car.

This is how we have gone from a nation of laws—where the least among us had just as much right to be treated with dignity and respect as the next person (in principle, at least)—to a nation of law enforcers (revenue collectors with weapons) who treat the citizenry like suspects and criminals.

The lesson for all of us: at a time when police have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to “serve and protect”—and a “fear” for officer safety is used to justify all manner of police misconduct—“we the people” are at a severe disadvantage.

Add a traffic stop to the mix, and that disadvantage increases dramatically.

According to the Justice Department, the most common reason for a citizen to come into contact with the police is being a driver in a traffic stop.

On average, one in 10 Americans gets pulled over by police.

Of the roughly 1,100 people killed by police each year, 10% of those involve traffic stops.

Historically, police officers have been given free range to pull anyone over for a variety of reasons.

This free-handed approach to traffic stops has resulted in drivers being stopped for windows that are too heavily tinted, for driving too fast, driving too slow, failing to maintain speed, following too closely, improper lane changes, distracted driving, screeching a car’s tires, and leaving a parked car door open for too long.

Motorists can also be stopped by police for driving near a bar or on a road that has large amounts of drunk driving, driving a certain make of car (Mercedes, Grand Prix and Hummers are among the most ticketed vehicles), having anything dangling from the rearview mirror (air fresheners, handicap parking permits, toll transponders or rosaries), and displaying pro-police bumper stickers.

Incredibly, a federal appeals court actually ruled unanimously in 2014 that acne scars and driving with a stiff upright posture are reasonable grounds for being pulled over. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that driving a vehicle that has a couple air fresheners, rosaries and pro-police bumper stickers at 2 MPH over the speed limit is suspicious, meriting a traffic stop.

Equally appalling, in Heien v. North Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court—which has largely paved the way for the police and other government agents to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance—allowed police officers to stop drivers who appear nervous, provided they provide a palatable pretext for doing so.

Black drivers are almost two times more likely than white drivers to be pulled over by police and three times more likely to have their vehicles searched. As the Washington Post concludes, “‘Driving while black’ is, indeed, a measurable phenomenon.”

In other words, drivers beware.

Traffic stops aren’t just dangerous. They can be downright deadly.

Patrick Lyoya was pulled over for having a mismatched license plate. The unarmed man was shot in the back of the head while on the ground during a subsequent struggle with a Michigan police officer.

Reportedly pulled over for a broken taillight, Walter Scott—unarmed—ran away from the police officer, who pursued and shot him from behind, first with a Taser, then with a gun. Scott was struck five times, “three times in the back, once in the upper buttocks and once in the ear — with at least one bullet entering his heart.”

Samuel Dubose, also unarmed, was pulled over for a missing front license plate. He was reportedly shot in the head after a brief struggle in which his car began rolling forward.

Levar Jones was stopped for a seatbelt offense, just as he was getting out of his car to enter a convenience store. Directed to show his license, Jones leaned into his car to get his wallet, only to be shot four times by the “fearful” officer. Jones was also unarmed.

Bobby Canipe was pulled over for having an expired registration. When the 70-year-old reached into the back of his truck for his walking cane, the officer fired several shots at him, hitting him once in the abdomen.

Dontrell Stevens was stopped “for not bicycling properly.” The officer pursuing him “thought the way Stephens rode his bike was suspicious. He thought the way Stephens got off his bike was suspicious.” Four seconds later, sheriff’s deputy Adams Lin shot Stephens four times as he pulled out a black object from his waistband. The object was his cell phone. Stephens was unarmed.

That police are choosing to fatally resolve these encounters by using their guns on fellow citizens speaks volumes about what is wrong with policing in America today, where police officers are being dressed in the trappings of war, drilled in the deadly art of combat, and trained to look upon “every individual they interact with as an armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making.”

Keep in mind, from the moment those lights start flashing and that siren goes off, we’re all in the same boat. Yet it’s what happens after you’ve been pulled over that’s critical.

Trying to predict the outcome of any encounter with the police is a bit like playing Russian roulette: most of the time you will emerge relatively unscathed, although decidedly poorer and less secure about your rights, but there’s always the chance that an encounter will turn deadly.

Survival is key.

Technically, you have the right to remain silent (beyond the basic requirement to identify yourself and show your registration). You have the right to refuse to have your vehicle searched. You have the right to film your interaction with police. You have the right to ask to leave. You also have the right to resist an unlawful order such as a police officer directing you to extinguish your cigarette, put away your phone or stop recording them.

However, there is a price for asserting one’s rights. That price grows more costly with every passing day.

If you ask cops and their enablers what Americans should do to stay alive during encounters with police, they will tell you to comply, cooperate, obey, not resist, not argue, not make threatening gestures or statements, avoid sudden movements, and submit to a search of their person and belongings. 

Unfortunately, in the American police state, compliance is no guarantee that you will survive an encounter with the police with your life and liberties intact.

Every day we hear about situations in which unarmed Americans complied and still died during an encounter with police simply because they appeared to be standing in a “shooting stance” or held a cell phone or a garden hose or carried around a baseball bat or answered the front door or held a spoon in a threatening manner or ran in an aggressive manner holding a tree branch or wandered around naked or hunched over in a defensive posture or made the mistake of wearing the same clothes as a carjacking suspect (dark pants and a basketball jersey) or dared to leave an area at the same time that a police officer showed up or had a car break down by the side of the road or were deaf or homeless or old.

More often than not, it seems as if all you have to do to be shot and killed by police is stand a certain way, or move a certain way, or hold something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or ignite some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.

Now politicians, police unions, law enforcement officials and individuals who are more than happy to march in lockstep with the police state make all kinds of excuses to justify these shootings.  However, to suggest that a good citizen is a compliant citizen and that obedience will save us from the police state is not only recklessly irresponsible, but it is also deluded.

To begin with, and most importantly, Americans need to know their rights when it comes to interactions with the police, bearing in mind that many law enforcement officials are largely ignorant of the law themselves.

A good resource is The Rutherford Institute’s “Constitutional Q&A: Rules of Engagement for Interacting with Police.”

In a nutshell, the following are your basic rights when it comes to interactions with the police as outlined in the Bill of Rights:

You have the right under the First Amendment to ask questions and express yourself. You have the right under the Fourth Amendment to not have your person or your property searched by police or any government agent unless they have a search warrant authorizing them to do so.  You have the right under the Fifth Amendment to remain silent, to not incriminate yourself and to request an attorney. Depending on which state you live in and whether your encounter with police is consensual as opposed to your being temporarily detained or arrested, you may have the right to refuse to identify yourself. Not all states require citizens to show their ID to an officer (although drivers in all states must do so).

As a rule of thumb, you should always be sure to clarify in any police encounter whether or not you are being detained, i.e., whether you have the right to walk away. That holds true whether it’s a casual “show your ID” request on a boardwalk, a stop-and-frisk search on a city street, or a traffic stop for speeding or just to check your insurance. If you feel like you can’t walk away from a police encounter of your own volition—and more often than not you can’t, especially when you’re being confronted by someone armed to the hilt with all manner of militarized weaponry and gear—then for all intents and purposes, you’re essentially under arrest from the moment a cop stops you. Still, it doesn’t hurt to clarify that distinction.

While technology is always going to be a double-edged sword, with the gadgets that are the most useful to us in our daily lives—GPS devices, cell phones, the internet—being the very tools used by the government to track us, monitor our activities, and generally spy on us, cell phones are particularly useful for recording encounters with the police and have proven to be increasingly powerful reminders to police that they are not all powerful.

Knowing your rights is only part of the battle, unfortunately.

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, the danger arises when the burden of proof is reversed, “we the people” are assumed guilty, and we have to exercise our rights while simultaneously attempting to prove our innocence to trigger-happy cops with no understanding of the Bill of Rights.

Source: https://bit.ly/3ThwQeZ

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.” — President Harry S. Truman

Militarized police. Riot squads. Camouflage gear. Black uniforms. Armored vehicles. Mass arrests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Batons. Strip searches. Surveillance cameras. Kevlar vests. Drones. Lethal weapons. Less-than-lethal weapons unleashed with deadly force. Rubber bullets. Water cannons. Stun grenades. Arrests of journalists. Crowd control tactics. Intimidation tactics. Brutality. Lockdowns.

This is not the language of freedom. This is not even the language of law and order.

This is the language of force.

This is how the government at all levels—federal, state and local—now responds to those who speak out against government corruption, misconduct and abuse.

These overreaching, heavy-handed lessons in how to rule by force have become standard operating procedure for a government that communicates with its citizenry primarily through the language of brutality, intimidation and fear.

We didn’t know it then, but what happened five years ago in Charlottesville, Va., was a foretaste of what was to come.

At the time, Charlottesville was at the center of a growing struggle over how to reconcile the right to think and speak freely, especially about controversial ideas, with the push to sanitize the environment of anything—words and images—that might cause offense. That fear of offense prompted the Charlottesville City Council to get rid of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that had graced one of its public parks for 82 years.

In attempting to err on the side of political correctness by placating one group while muzzling critics of the city’s actions, Charlottesville attracted the unwanted attention of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and the alt-Right, all of whom descended on the little college town with the intention of exercising their First Amendment right to be disagreeable, to assemble, and to protest.

That’s when everything went haywire.

When put to the test, Charlottesville did not handle things well at all.

On August 12, 2017, government officials took what should have been a legitimate exercise in constitutional principles (free speech, assembly and protest) and turned it into a lesson in authoritarianism by manipulating warring factions and engineering events in such a way as to foment unrest, lockdown the city, and justify further power grabs.

On the day of scheduled protests, police deliberately engineered a situation in which two opposing camps of protesters would confront each other, tensions would bubble over, and things would turn just violent enough to justify allowing the government to shut everything down.

Despite the fact that 1,000 first responders (including 300 state police troopers and members of the National Guard)—many of whom had been preparing for the downtown rally for months—had been called on to work the event, and police in riot gear surrounded Emancipation Park on three sides, police failed to do their jobs.

In fact, as the Washington Post reports, police “seemed to watch as groups beat each other with sticks and bludgeoned one another with shields… At one point, police appeared to retreat and then watch the beatings before eventually moving in to end the free-for-all, make arrests and tend to the injured.”

Police Stood By As Mayhem Mounted in Charlottesville,” reported ProPublica.

Incredibly, when the first signs of open violence broke out, the police chief allegedly instructed his staff to “let them fight, it will make it easier to declare an unlawful assembly.”

In this way, police who were supposed to uphold the law and prevent violence failed to do either.

Indeed, a 220-page post-mortem of the protests and the Charlottesville government’s response by former U.S. attorney Timothy J. Heaphy concluded that “the City of Charlottesville protected neither free expression nor public safety.”

In other words, the government failed to uphold its constitutional mandates.

The police failed to carry out their duties as peace officers.

And the citizens found themselves unable to trust either the police or the government to do its job in respecting their rights and ensuring their safety.

This is not much different from what is happening on the present-day national scene.

Indeed, there’s a pattern emerging if you pay close enough attention.

Civil discontent leads to civil unrest, which leads to protests and counterprotests. Tensions rise, violence escalates, police stand down, and federal armies move in. Meanwhile, despite the protests and the outrage, the government’s abuses continue unabated.

It’s all part of an elaborate setup by the architects of the police state. The government wants a reason to crack down and lock down and bring in its biggest guns.

They want us divided. They want us to turn on one another.

They want us powerless in the face of their artillery and armed forces.

They want us silent, servile and compliant.

They certainly do not want us to remember that we have rights, let alone attempting to exercise those rights peaceably and lawfully, whether it’s protesting politically correct efforts to whitewash the past, challenging COVID-19 mandates, questioning election outcomes, or listening to alternate viewpoints—even conspiratorial ones—in order to form our own opinions about the true nature of government.  

And they definitely do not want us to engage in First Amendment activities that challenge the government’s power, reveal the government’s corruption, expose the government’s lies, and encourage the citizenry to push back against the government’s many injustices.

Why else do you think Wikileaks founder Julian Assange continues to molder in jail for daring to blow the whistle about the U.S. government’s war crimes, while government officials who rape, plunder and kill walk away with little more than a slap on the wrist?

This is how it begins.

We are moving fast down that slippery slope to an authoritarian society in which the only opinions, ideas and speech expressed are the ones permitted by the government and its corporate cohorts.

In the wake of the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol, “domestic terrorism” has become the new poster child for expanding the government’s powers at the expense of civil liberties.

Of course, “domestic terrorist” is just the latest bull’s eye phrase, to be used interchangeably with “anti-government,” “extremist” and “terrorist,” to describe anyone who might fall somewhere on a very broad spectrum of viewpoints that could be considered “dangerous.”

This unilateral power to muzzle free speech represents a far greater danger than any so-called right- or left-wing extremist might pose. The ramifications are so far-reaching as to render almost every American an extremist in word, deed, thought or by association.

Watch and see: we are all about to become enemies of the state.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, anytime you have a government that operates in the shadows, speaks in a language of force, and rules by fiat, you’d better beware.

So what’s the answer?

For starters, we need to remember that we’ve all got rights, and we need to exercise them.

Most of all, we need to protect the rights of the people to speak truth to power, whatever that truth might be. Either “we the people” believe in free speech or we don’t.

Fifty years ago, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas asked:

“Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us? The constitutional theory is that we the people are the sovereigns, the state and federal officials only our agents. We who have the final word can speak softly or angrily. We can seek to challenge and annoy, as we need not stay docile and quiet… [A]t the constitutional level, speech need not be a sedative; it can be disruptive… [A] function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.”

In other words, the Constitution does not require Americans to be servile or even civil to government officials. Neither does the Constitution require obedience (although it does insist on nonviolence).

Somehow, the government keeps overlooking this important element in the equation.

Source: https://bit.ly/3QvFmp1

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

“Solving unsolved crimes is a noble objective, but it occupies a lower place in the American pantheon of noble objectives than the protection of our people from suspicionless law-enforcement searches… Make no mistake about it…your DNA can be taken and entered into a national DNA database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason… Perhaps the construction of such a genetic panopticon is wise. But I doubt that the proud men who wrote the charter of our liberties would have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection.”—Justice Antonin Scalia dissenting in Maryland v. King

Be warned: the DNA detectives are on the prowl.

Whatever skeletons may be lurking on your family tree or in your closet, whatever crimes you may have committed, whatever associations you may have with those on the government’s most wanted lists: the police state is determined to ferret them out.

In an age of overcriminalization, round-the-clock surveillance, and a police state eager to flex its muscles in a show of power, we are all guilty of some transgression or other.

No longer can we consider ourselves innocent until proven guilty.

Now we are all suspects in a DNA lineup waiting to be matched up with a crime.

Suspect State, meet the Genetic Panopticon.

DNA technology in the hands of government officials will complete our transition to a Surveillance State in which prison walls are disguised within the seemingly benevolent trappings of technological and scientific progress, national security and the need to guard against terrorists, pandemics, civil unrest, etc.

By accessing your DNA, the government will soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know: your family chart, your ancestry, what you look like, your health history, your inclination to follow orders or chart your own course, etc.

It’s getting harder to hide, even if you think you’ve got nothing to hide.

Armed with unprecedented access to DNA databases amassed by the FBI and ancestry website, as well as hospital newborn screening programs, police are using forensic genealogy, which allows police to match up an unknown suspect’s crime scene DNA with that of any family members in a genealogy database, to solve cold cases that have remained unsolved for decades.

By submitting your DNA to a genealogical database such as Ancestry and 23andMe, you’re giving the police access to the genetic makeup, relationships and health profiles of every relative—past, present and future—in your family, whether or not they ever agreed to be part of such a database.

It no longer even matters if you’re among the tens of millions of people who have added their DNA to ancestry databases. As Brian Resnick reports, public DNA databases have grown so massive that they can be used to find you even if you’ve never shared your own DNA.

That simple transaction—a spit sample or a cheek swab in exchange for getting to learn everything about one’s ancestral makeup, where one came from, and who is part of one’s extended family—is the price of entry into the Suspect State for all of us.

After all, a DNA print reveals everything about “who we are, where we come from, and who we will be.” It can also be used to predict the physical appearance of potential suspects.

It’s what police like to refer to a “modern fingerprint.”

Whereas fingerprint technology created a watershed moment for police in their ability to “crack” a case, DNA technology is now being hailed by law enforcement agencies as the magic bullet in crime solving, especially when it helps them crack cold cases of serial murders and rapists.

After all, who wouldn’t want to get psychopaths and serial rapists off the streets and safely behind bars, right?

At least, that’s the argument being used by law enforcement to support their unrestricted access to these genealogy databases, and they’ve got the success stories to prove it.

For instance, a 68-year-old Pennsylvania man was arrested and charged with the brutal rape and murder of a young woman almost 50 years earlier. Relying on genealogical research suggesting that the killer had ancestors who hailed from a small town in Italy, investigators narrowed their findings down to one man whose DNA, obtained from a discarded coffee cup, matched the killer’s.

In another cold case investigation, a 76-year-old man was arrested for two decades-old murders after his DNA was collected from a breathalyzer during an unrelated traffic stop.

Yet it’s not just psychopaths and serial rapists who are getting caught up in the investigative dragnet. In the police state’s pursuit of criminals, anyone who comes up as a possible DNA match—including distant family members—suddenly becomes part of a circle of suspects that must be tracked, investigated and ruled out.

Victims of past crimes are also getting added to the government’s growing DNA database of potential suspects. For instance, San Francisco police used a rape victim’s DNA, which was on file from a 2016 sexual assault, to arrest the woman for allegedly being involved in a property crime that took place in 2021.

In this way, “guilt by association” has taken on new connotations in a technological age in which one is just a DNA sample away from being considered a person of interest in a police investigation. As Jessica Cussins warns in Psychology Today, “The fundamental fight—that data from potentially innocent people should not be used to connect them to unrelated crimes—has been lost.”

Until recently, the government was required to at least observe some basic restrictions on when, where and how it could access someone’s DNA. That was turned on its head by various U.S. Supreme Court rulings that heralded the loss of privacy on a cellular level.

For instance, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Maryland v. King that taking DNA samples from a suspect doesn’t violate the Fourth Amendment. The Court’s subsequent decision to let stand the Maryland Court of Appeals’ ruling in Raynor v. Maryland, which essentially determined that individuals do not have a right to privacy when it comes to their DNA, made Americans even more vulnerable to the government accessing, analyzing and storing their DNA without their knowledge or permission.

It’s all been downhill since then.

Indeed, the government has been relentless in its efforts to get hold of our DNA, either through mandatory programs carried out in connection with law enforcement and corporate America, by warrantlessly accessing our familial DNA shared with genealogical services such as Ancestry and 23andMe, or through the collection of our “shed” or “touch” DNA.

Get ready, folks, because the government has embarked on a diabolical campaign to create a nation of suspects predicated on a massive national DNA database.

This has been helped along by Congress (which adopted legislation allowing police to collect and test DNA immediately following arrests), President Trump (who signed the Rapid DNA Act into law), the courts (which have ruled that police can routinely take DNA samples from people who are arrested but not yet convicted of a crime), and local police agencies (which are chomping at the bit to acquire this new crime-fighting gadget).

For example, Rapid DNA machines—portable, about the size of a desktop printer, highly unregulated, far from fool-proof, and so fast that they can produce DNA profiles in less than two hours—allow police to go on fishing expeditions for any hint of possible misconduct using DNA samples.

Journalist Heather Murphy explains: “As police agencies build out their local DNA databases, they are collecting DNA not only from people who have been charged with major crimes but also, increasingly, from people who are merely deemed suspicious, permanently linking their genetic identities to criminal databases.”

All 50 states now maintain their own DNA government databases, although the protocols for collection differ from state to state. Increasingly, many of the data from local databanks are being uploaded to CODIS, the FBI’s massive DNA database, which has become a de facto way to identify and track the American people from birth to death.

Even hospitals have gotten in on the game by taking and storing newborn babies’ DNA, often without their parents’ knowledge or consent. It’s part of the government’s mandatory genetic screening of newborns. In many states, the DNA is stored indefinitely. There’s already a move underway to carry out whole genome sequencing on newborns, ostensibly to help diagnose rare diseases earlier and improve health later in life, which constitutes an ethical minefield all by itself.

What this means for those being born today is inclusion in a government database that contains intimate information about who they are, their ancestry, and what awaits them in the future, including their inclinations to be followers, leaders or troublemakers.

Just recently, in fact, police in New Jersey accessed the DNA from a nine-year-old blood sample of a newborn baby in order to identify the child’s father as a suspect in a decades-old sexual assault.

The ramifications of this kind of DNA profiling are far-reaching.

At a minimum, these DNA databases do away with any semblance of privacy or anonymity.

The lucrative possibilities for hackers and commercial entities looking to profit off one’s biological record are endless. It’s estimated that the global human identification market is projected to reach $6.5 billion by 2032.

These genetic databases and genomic technology also make us that much more vulnerable to creeps and cyberstalkersgenetic profiling, and those who would weaponize the technology against us.

Unfortunately, the debate over genetic privacy—and when one’s DNA becomes a public commodity outside the protection of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on warrantless searches and seizures—continues to lag far behind the government and Corporate America’s encroachments on our rights.

Moreover, while much of the public debate, legislative efforts and legal challenges in recent years have focused on the protocols surrounding when police can legally collect a suspect’s DNA (with or without a search warrant and whether upon arrest or conviction), the question of how to handle “shed” or “touch” DNA has largely slipped through without much debate or opposition.

As scientist Leslie A. Pray notes:

We all shed DNA, leaving traces of our identity practically everywhere we go… In fact, the garbage you leave for curbside pickup is a potential gold mine of this sort of material. All of this shed or so-called abandoned DNA is free for the taking by local police investigators hoping to crack unsolvable cases… shed DNA is also free for inclusion in a secret universal DNA databank.

What this means is that if you have the misfortune to leave your DNA traces anywhere a crime has been committed, you’ve already got a file somewhere in some state or federal database—albeit it may be a file without a name. As Heather Murphy warns in the New York Times: “The science-fiction future, in which police can swiftly identify robbers and murderers from discarded soda cans and cigarette butts, has arrived…  Genetic fingerprinting is set to become as routine as the old-fashioned kind.

As the dissenting opinion to the Maryland Court of Appeals’ shed DNA ruling in Raynor rightly warned, “A person can no longer vote, participate in a jury, or obtain a driver’s license, without opening up his genetic material for state collection and codification.” Indeed, by refusing to hear the Raynor case, the U.S. Supreme Court gave its tacit approval for government agents to collect shed DNA, likening it to a person’s fingerprints or the color of their hair, eyes or skin.

It’s just a matter of time before government agents will know everywhere we’ve been and how long we were at each place by following our shed DNA. After all, scientists can already track salmon across hundreds of square miles of streams and rivers using DNA.

Today, helped along by robotics and automation, DNA processing, analysis and reporting takes far less time and can bring forth all manner of information, right down to a person’s eye color and relatives. Incredibly, one company specializes in creating “mug shots” for police based on DNA samples from unknown “suspects” which are then compared to individuals with similar genetic profiles.

Of course, none of these technologies are infallible.

DNA evidence can be wrong, either through human error, tampering, or even outright fabrication, and it happens more often than we are told.

What this amounts to is a scenario in which we have little to no defense against charges of wrongdoing, especially when “convicted” by technology, and even less protection against the government sweeping up our DNA in much the same way it sweeps up our phone calls, emails and text messages.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, it’s only a matter of time before the police state’s pursuit of criminals from the past expands into genetic profiling and a preemptive hunt for criminals of the future.

Source: https://bit.ly/3z4WZF2

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

“That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on.”—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

We are witnessing the gradual dismantling of every constitutional principle that serves as a bulwark against government tyranny, overreach and abuse.

As usual, the latest assault comes from the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a 6-3 ruling in Vega v. Tekoh, the Supreme Court took aim at the Miranda warnings, which require that police inform suspects that they have a right against self-incrimination when in police custody: namely, that they have a right to remain silent, to have an attorney present, and that anything they say and do can and will be used against them in a court of law.

Although the Supreme Court stopped short of overturning its 1966 ruling in Miranda v. Arizona, the conservative majority declared that individuals cannot hold police accountable for violating their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

By shielding police from lawsuits arising from their failure to Mirandize suspects, the Supreme Court has sent a message to police that they no longer have to respect a suspect’s right to remain silent.

In other words, concludes legal analyst Nick Sibilla, “the Supreme Court has effectively created a new legal immunity for cops accused of infringing on the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination.”

Why is this important?

In totality, the rights enshrined in the Fifth Amendment speak to the Founders’ determination to protect the rights of the individual against a government with a natural inclination towards corruption, tyranny and thuggery.

The Founders were especially concerned with balancing the scales of justice in such a way that the innocent and the accused were not railroaded and browbeaten by government agents into coerced confessions, false convictions, or sham trials.  

Indeed, so determined were the Founders to safeguard the rights of the innocent, even if it meant allowing a guilty person to go free, that Benjamin Franklin insisted, “It is better a hundred guilty persons should escape than one innocent person should suffer.”

Two hundred-plus years later, the Supreme Court (aided and abetted by the police state, Congress and Corporate America) has flipped that longstanding presumption of innocence on its head.

In our present suspect society, “we the people” are all presumed guilty until proven innocent.

With the Vega ruling, we have even fewer defenses for warding off government chicanery, abuse, threats and entrapment.

To be clear, the Supreme Court is not saying that we don’t have the right to remain silent when in police custody. It’s merely saying that we can’t sue the police for violating that right.

It’s a subtle difference but a significant one that could well encourage police to engage in the very sort of egregious misconduct at the heart of the Vega case: in which a police officer investigating a sexual assault isolated a suspect in a small, windowless room; refused him access to a lawyer or work colleagues; accused him of molesting a female patient; threatened him with violence; implied that he and his family would be deported; and terrorized him into signing a false confession dictated by the cop.

Although Terence Tekoh was eventually tried and acquitted, the Supreme Court refused to hold police accountable for browbeating an innocent man into making a false confession.

The Vega ruling threatens to turn the clocks back to a time when police resorted to physical brutality (beating, hanging, whipping) and mental torture in order to obtain confessions from suspects without ever informing them of their Fifth Amendment rights.

This was exactly the kind of misconduct that the Warren Court sought to discourage with its 5-4 ruling in Miranda v. Arizona.

As the Court concluded in Miranda almost 60 years ago:

The prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination. By custodial interrogation, we mean questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way. As for the procedural safeguards to be employed, unless other fully effective means are devised to inform accused persons of their right of silence and to assure a continuous opportunity to exercise it, the following measures are required. Prior to any questioning, the person must be warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed. The defendant may waive effectuation of these rights, provided the waiver is made voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently. If, however, he indicates in any manner and at any stage of the process that he wishes to consult with an attorney before speaking, there can be no questioning. Likewise, if the individual is alone and indicates in any manner that he does not wish to be interrogated, the police may not question him. The mere fact that he may have answered some questions or volunteered some statements on his own does not deprive him of the right to refrain from answering any further inquiries until he has consulted with an attorney and thereafter consents to be questioned.

The end result as one analyst notes: “Miranda v. Arizona, in creating the ‘Miranda Rights’ we take for granted today, reconciled the increasing police powers of the state with the basic rights of individuals.”

By largely doing away with Miranda, the Supreme Court has made its present position clear: anything goes if you’re a cop in the American police state.

Indeed, pay close to attention to the Court’s rulings lately, and the broader picture that emerges is of a judiciary that is playing fast and loose with the rule of law, picking and choose which rights to uphold and which can be discarded, in order to expand the power of the police state at the expense of the people’s rights.

If left unchecked, this constitutionally illiterate ruling will open the door to a new era of police abuses.

By shielding police from charges of grave misconduct while throwing the book at Americans for violating any of a rapidly expanding assortment of so-called crimes, the government has created a world in which there are two sets of laws: one set for the government and its gun-toting agents, and another set for you and me.

If you’re a cop in the American police state, you can already break the law in a myriad of ways without suffering any major, long-term consequences.

Indeed, not only are cops protected from most charges of wrongdoing—whether it’s shooting unarmed citizens (including children and old people), raping and abusing young women, falsifying police reports, trafficking drugs, or soliciting sex with minors—but even on the rare occasions when they are fired for misconduct, it’s only a matter of time before they get re-hired again.

For instance, police officer Jackie Neal was accused of putting his hands inside a woman’s panties, lifting up her shirt and feeling her breasts during a routine traffic stop. He remained on the police force. A year later, Neal was accused of digitally penetrating another woman. Still, he wasn’t fired or disciplined.

A few years after that, Neal—then serving as supervisor of the department’s youth program—was suspended for three days for having sex with a teenage girl participating in the program. As Reuters reports, “Neal never lost a dime in pay or a day off patrol: The union contract allowed him to serve the suspension using vacation days.”

Later that same year, Neal was arrested on charges that he handcuffed a woman in the rear seat of his police vehicle and then raped her. He was eventually fined $5,000 and sentenced to 14 months in prison, with five months off for “work and education.” The taxpayers of San Antonio got saddled with $500,000 to settle the case.

Now here’s the kicker: when the local city council attempted to amend the police union contract to create greater accountability for police misconduct, the police unions flexed their muscles and engaged in such a heated propaganda campaign that the city backed down.

This is how perverse justice in America has become, and it’s happening all across the country.

Incredibly, while our own constitutional protections against government abuses continue to be dismantled, a growing number of states are adopting Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBoR)—written by police unions—which provides police officers accused of a crime with special due process rights and privileges not afforded to the average citizen.

In other words, the LEOBoR protects police officers from being treated as we are treated during criminal investigations: questioned unmercifully for hours on end, harassed, harangued, browbeaten, denied food, water and bathroom breaks, subjected to hostile interrogations, and left in the dark about our accusers and any charges and evidence against us.

These LEOBoRs epitomize everything that is wrong with America today.

Now every so often, police officers engaged in wrongdoing are actually charged for abusing their authority and using excessive force against American citizens. Occasionally, those officers are even sentenced for their crimes against the citizenry.

Yet in just about every case, it’s still the American taxpayer who foots the bill.

The ones who rarely ever feel the pinch are the officers accused or convicted of wrongdoing, “even if they are disciplined or terminated by their department, criminally prosecuted, or even imprisoned.”  

In fact, police officers are more likely to be struck by lightning than be held financially accountable for their actions.

No matter which way you spin it, “we the people” are always on the losing end of the deal.

With the Supreme Court’s ruling in Vega v. Tekoh, the scales of justice have shifted out of balance even more.

Brace yourselves: as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, things are about to get downright ugly.

Source: https://bit.ly/3yzh0TZ

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

No one should get used to their rights. Predicting with certainty which ones, if any, will go, or when, is impossible.”—Mary R. Ziegler, legal historian

The Supreme Court has spoken: there will be no consequences for cops who brutalize the citizenry and no justice for the victims of police brutality.

Although the Court’s 2021-22 rulings on qualified immunity for police who engage in official misconduct were largely overshadowed by its politically polarizing rulings on abortion, gun ownership and religion, they were no less devastating.

The doctrine of qualified immunity was intended to insulate government officials from frivolous lawsuits, but the real purpose of qualified immunity is to ensure that government officials are not held accountable for official misconduct.

In Egbert v. Boule, the Court gave total immunity to Border Patrol agents who beat up a bed-and-breakfast owner, in the process carving out a massive exception to the Fourth Amendment for border police (and by extension, other federal police) who unconstitutionally use excessive force. As journalist Ian Millhiser concludes, “Egbert v. Boule is a severe blow to the proposition that law enforcement must obey the Constitution.”

In Cope v. Cogdill, the Court let stand a Fifth Circuit ruling that granted qualified immunity to jail officials who watched a suicidal inmate strangle himself without intervening or calling for help. Likewise, in Ramirez v. Guadarrama, the Court let stand a lower court ruling granting qualified immunity to police officers who fired their tasers at a suicidal man who had doused himself in gasoline, causing the man to burst into flames.

Both Cope and Ramirez move the goal posts for the kind of misconduct that merits qualified immunity, suggesting that even sheer incompetence is excusable when it involves a cop.

It’s a chilling reminder that in the American police state, ‘we the people’ are at the mercy of law enforcement officers who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to ‘serve and protect.”

This is how unarmed Americans keep dying at the hands of militarized police.

Under the guise of qualified immunity, there have been no consequences for police who destroyed a private home by bombarding it with tear gas grenades during a SWAT team raid gone awry, or for the cop who mistakenly shot a 10-year-old boy after aiming for and missing the non-threatening family dog, or for the arresting officer who sicced a police dog on a suspect who had already surrendered.

Qualified immunity is how the police state stays in power.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in Harlow v. Fitzgerald (1982) that suing government officials for monetary damages is “the only realistic avenue” of holding them accountable for abusing their offices and violating the Constitution, it has ostensibly given the police and other government agents a green light to shoot first and ask questions later, as well as to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts.

Whether it’s police officers breaking through people’s front doors and shooting them dead in their homes or strip searching motorists on the side of the road, these instances of abuse are continually validated by a judicial system that kowtows to virtually every police demand, no matter how unjust, no matter how in opposition to the Constitution.

Make no mistake about it: this is what constitutes “law and order” in the American police state.

These are the hallmarks of a police state: where police officers, no longer mere servants of the people entrusted with keeping the peace, are part of an elite ruling class dependent on keeping the masses corralled, under control, and treated like suspects and enemies rather than citizens.

Unfortunately, we’ve been traveling this dangerous road for a long time now.

A review of critical court rulings over the past several decades, including rulings affirming qualified immunity protections for government agents by the U.S. Supreme Court, reveals a startling and steady trend towards pro-police state rulings by an institution concerned more with establishing order, protecting the ruling class, and insulating government agents from charges of wrongdoing than with upholding the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Indeed, as Reuters reports, qualified immunity “has become a nearly failsafe tool to let police brutality go unpunished and deny victims their constitutional rights.” Worse, as Reuters concluded, “the Supreme Court has built qualified immunity into an often insurmountable police defense by intervening in cases mostly to favor the police.”

For instance, police can claim qualified immunity for warrantless searches. In Anderson v. Creighton, the Supreme Court ruled that FBI and state law enforcement agents were entitled to qualified immunity protections after they were sued for raiding a private home without a warrant and holding family members at gunpoint, all in a search for a suspected bank robber who was not in the house.

Police can claim qualified immunity for using excessive force against protesters. In Saucier v. Katz, the Court ruled in favor of federal law enforcement agents who forcefully tackled a protester as he attempted to unfurl a banner at Vice President Gore’s political rally. The Court reasoned that the officers acted reasonably given the urgency of protecting the vice president.

Police can claim qualified immunity for shooting a fleeing suspect in the back. In Brosseau v. Haugen, the Court dismissed a lawsuit against a police officer who shot Kenneth Haugen in the back as he entered his car in order to flee from police. The Court ruled that in light of existing case law, the cop’s conduct fell in the “hazy border between excessive and acceptable force” and so she did not violate clearly established law.

Police can claim qualified immunity for shooting a mentally impaired person. In City of San Francisco v. Sheehan, the Court ruled in favor of police who repeatedly shot Teresa Sheehan during the course of a mental health welfare check. The Court ruled that it was not unreasonable for police to pepper spray and shoot Sheehan multiple times after entering her room without a warrant and encountering her holding a knife.

Police officers can use lethal force in car chases without fear of lawsuits. In Plumhoff v. Rickard, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that police officers who used deadly force to terminate a car chase were immune from a lawsuit. The officers were accused of needlessly resorting to deadly force by shooting multiple times at a man and his passenger in a stopped car, killing both individuals.

Police can stop, arrest and search citizens without reasonable suspicion or probable cause. In a 5-3 ruling in Utah v. Strieff, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively gave police the go-ahead to embark on a fishing expedition of one’s person and property, rendering Americans completely vulnerable to the whims of any cop on the beat.

Police officers can stop cars based on “anonymous” tips or for “suspicious” behavior such as having a reclined car seat or driving too carefully. In a 5-4 ruling in Navarette v. California, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that police officers, under the guise of “reasonable suspicion,” can stop cars and question drivers based solely on anonymous tips, no matter how dubious, and whether or not they themselves witnessed any troubling behavior. Then in State v. Howard, the Kansas Supreme Court declared that motorists who recline their car seats are guilty of suspicious behavior and can be subject to warrantless searches by police. That ruling, coupled with other court rulings upholding warrantless searches and seizures by police renders one’s car a Constitution-free zone.

Americans have no protection against mandatory breathalyzer tests at a police checkpoint, although mandatory blood draws violate the Fourth Amendment (Birchfield v. North Dakota). Police can also conduct sobriety and “information-seeking” checkpoints (Illinois v. Lidster and Mich. Dep’t of State Police v. Sitz).

Police can forcibly take your DNA, whether or not you’ve been convicted of a crime. In Maryland v. King, a divided U.S. Supreme Court determined that a person arrested for a crime who is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty must submit to forcible extraction of their DNA. Once again the Court sided with the guardians of the police state over the defenders of individual liberty in determining that DNA samples may be extracted from people arrested for “serious” offenses. The end result of the ruling paves the way for a nationwide dragnet of suspects targeted via DNA sampling.

Police can use the “fear for my life” rationale as an excuse for shooting unarmed individuals. Upon arriving on the scene of a nighttime traffic accident, an Alabama police officer shot a driver exiting his car, mistakenly believing the wallet in his hand to be a gun. A report by the Justice Department found that half of the unarmed people shot by one police department over a seven-year span were “shot because the officer saw something (like a cellphone) or some action (like a person pulling at the waist of their pants) and misidentified it as a threat.”

Police have free reign to use drug-sniffing dogs as “search warrants on leashes.” In Florida v. Harris, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court determined that police officers may use highly unreliable drug-sniffing dogs to conduct warrantless searches of cars during routine traffic stops. The ruling turns man’s best friend into an extension of the police state, provided the use of a K-9 unit takes place within a reasonable amount of time (Rodriguez v. United States).

Not only are police largely protected by qualified immunity, but police dogs are also off the hook for wrongdoing. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a police officer who allowed a police dog to maul a homeless man innocent of any wrongdoing.

Police can subject Americans to strip searches, no matter the “offense.” A divided U.S. Supreme Court actually prioritized making life easier for overworked jail officials over the basic right of Americans to be free from debasing strip searches. In its 5-4 ruling in Florence v. Burlington, the Court declared that any person who is arrested and processed at a jail house, regardless of the severity of his or her offense (i.e., they can be guilty of nothing more than a minor traffic offense), can be subjected to a strip search by police or jail officials, which involves exposing the genitals and the buttocks. This “license to probe” is now being extended to roadside stops, as police officers throughout the country have begun performing roadside strip searches—some involving anal and vaginal probes—without any evidence of wrongdoing and without a warrant.

Police can break into homes without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home. In an 8-1 ruling in Kentucky v. King, the U.S. Supreme Court placed their trust in the discretion of police officers, rather than in the dictates of the Constitution, when they gave police greater leeway to break into homes or apartments without a warrant. Despite the fact that the police in question ended up pursuing the wrong suspect, invaded the wrong apartment and violated just about every tenet that stands between us and a police state, the Court sanctioned the warrantless raid, leaving Americans with little real protection in the face of all manner of abuses by police.

Police can use knock-and-talk tactics as a means of sidestepping the Fourth Amendment. Aggressive “knock and talk” practices have become thinly veiled, warrantless exercises by which citizens are coerced and intimidated into “talking” with heavily armed police who “knock” on their doors in the middle of the night. Andrew Scott didn’t even get a chance to say no to such a heavy-handed request before he was gunned down by police who pounded aggressively on the wrong door at 1:30 a.m., failed to identify themselves as police, and then repeatedly shot and killed the man when he answered the door while holding a gun in self-defense.

Police can carry out no-knock raids if they believe announcing themselves would be dangerous. Police can perform a “no-knock” raid as long as they have a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing their presence, under the particular circumstances, would be dangerous or futile or give occupants a chance to destroy evidence of a crime (Richards v. Wisconsin). Legal ownership of a firearm is also enough to justify a no-knock raid by police (Quinn v. Texas). For instance, a Texas man had his home subject to a no-knock, SWAT-team style forceful entry and raid based solely on the suspicion that there were legally-owned firearms in his household. The homeowner was actually shot by police through his closed bedroom door.

Police can recklessly open fire on anyone that might be “armed.” Philando Castile was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop allegedly over a broken taillight merely for telling police he had a conceal-and-carry permit. That’s all it took for police to shoot Castile four times in the presence of his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter. A unanimous Supreme Court declared in County of Los Angeles vs. Mendez that police should not be held liable for recklessly firing 15 times into a shack where a homeless couple had been sleeping because the grabbed his BB gun in defense, fearing they were being attacked.

Police can destroy a home during a SWAT raid, even if the owner gives their consent to enter and search it. In West v. Winfield, the Supreme Court provided cover to police after they smashed the windows of Shaniz West’s home, punched holes in her walls and ceilings, and bombed the house with so much tear gas that it was uninhabitable for two months. All of this despite the fact that the suspect they were pursuing was not in the house and West, the homeowner, agreed to allow police to search the home to confirm that.

Police can suffocate someone, deliberately or inadvertently, in the process of subduing them. “I can’t breathe” has become a rallying cry following the deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd, both of whom died after being placed in a chokehold by police. Dozens more have died in similar circumstances at the hands of police who have faced little repercussions for these deaths.

Clearly, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, the system is rigged.

Because the system is rigged, because the government is corrupt, and because the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently chosen to protect the police at the expense of the people, we are dealing with a nationwide epidemic of court-sanctioned police violence carried out with impunity against individuals posing little or no real threat.

This is how “we the people” keep losing.

Source: https://bit.ly/3NMzEgX

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

“In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught.”—Hunter S. Thompson

The burden of proof has been reversed.

No longer are we presumed innocent. Now we’re presumed guilty unless we can prove our innocence beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. Rarely, are we even given the opportunity to do so.

Although the Constitution requires the government to provide solid proof of criminal activity before it can deprive a citizen of life or liberty, the government has turned that fundamental assurance of due process on its head.

Each and every one of us is now seen as a potential suspect, terrorist and lawbreaker in the eyes of the government.

Consider all the ways in which “we the people” are now treated as criminals, found guilty of violating the police state’s abundance of laws, and preemptively stripped of basic due process rights.

Red flag gun confiscation laws: Gun control legislation, especially in the form of red flag gun laws, allow the police to remove guns from people “suspected” of being threats. These laws, growing in popularity as a legislative means by which to seize guns from individuals viewed as a danger to themselves or others, will put a target on the back of every American whether or not they own a weapon.

Disinformation eradication campaigns. In recent years, the government has used the phrase “domestic terrorist” interchangeably with “anti-government,” “extremist” and “terrorist” to describe anyone who might fall somewhere on a very broad spectrum of viewpoints that could be considered “dangerous.” The ramifications are so far-reaching as to render almost every American an extremist in word, deed, thought or by association. In the government’s latest assault on those who criticize the government—whether that criticism manifests itself in word, deed or thought—the Biden Administration has likened those who share “false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories, and other forms of mis- dis- and mal-information” to terrorists. This latest government salvo against consumers and spreaders of “mis- dis- and mal-information” widens the net to potentially include anyone who is exposed to ideas that run counter to the official government narrative. In other words, if you dare to subscribe to any views that are contrary to the government’s, you may well be suspected of being a domestic terrorist and treated accordingly. In this way, government and corporate censors claiming to protect us from dangerous, disinformation campaigns are, in fact, laying the groundwork now to preempt any “dangerous” ideas that might challenge the power elite’s stranglehold over our lives.

Government watch lists. The FBI, CIA, NSA and other government agencies have increasingly invested in corporate surveillance technologies that can mine constitutionally protected speech on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to identify potential extremists and predict who might engage in future acts of anti-government behavior. Where many Americans go wrong is in naively assuming that you have to be doing something illegal or harmful in order to be flagged and targeted for some form of intervention or detention. In fact, all you need to do these days to end up on a government watch list or be subjected to heightened scrutiny is use certain trigger words (like cloud, pork and pirates), surf the internet, communicate using a cell phone, limp or stutter, drive a car, stay at a hotel, attend a political rally, express yourself on social media, appear mentally ill, serve in the military, disagree with a law enforcement official, call in sick to work, purchase materials at a hardware store, take flying or boating lessons, appear suspicious, appear confused or nervous, fidget or whistle or smell bad, be seen in public waving a toy gun or anything remotely resembling a gun (such as a water nozzle or a remote control or a walking cane), stare at a police officer, question government authority, or appear to be pro-gun or pro-freedom.

Thought crimes. For years now, the government has used all of the weapons in its vast arsenal—surveillance, threat assessments, fusion centers, pre-crime programs, hate crime laws, militarized police, lockdowns, martial law, etc.—to target potential enemies of the state based on their ideologies, behaviors, affiliations and other characteristics that might be deemed suspicious or dangerous. It’s not just what you say or do that is being monitored, but how you think that is being tracked and targeted. There’s a whole spectrum of behaviors ranging from thought crimes and hate speech to whistleblowing that qualifies for persecution (and prosecution) by the Deep State. It’s a slippery slope from censoring so-called illegitimate ideas to silencing truth.

Security checkpoints and fusion centers. By treating an entire populace as suspect, the government has justified wide-ranging security checkpoints that subject travelers to scans, searches, pat downs and other indignities by the TSA and VIPR raids on so-called “soft” targets like shopping malls and bus depots by black-clad, Darth Vader look-alikes. Fusion centers, which represent the combined surveillance efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement, track the citizenry’s movements, record their conversations, and catalogue their transactions.

Surveillance, precrime programs. Facial recognition software aims to create a society in which every individual who steps out into public is tracked and recorded as they go about their daily business. Coupled with surveillance cameras that blanket the country, facial recognition technology allows the government and its corporate partners to warrantlessly identify and track someone’s movements in real-time, whether or not they have committed a crime. Rapid advances in behavioral surveillance are not only making it possible for individuals to be monitored and tracked based on their patterns of movement or behavior, including gait recognition (the way one walks), but have given rise to whole industries that revolve around predicting one’s behavior based on data and surveillance patterns and are also shaping the behaviors of whole populations. With the increase in precrime programs, threat assessments, AI algorithms and surveillance programs such as SpotShotter, which attempt to calculate where illegal activity might occur by triangulating sounds and images, the burden of proof has been turned on its head by a surveillance state that renders us all suspects and overcriminalization which renders us all lawbreakers.

Mail surveillance. Just about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people. For instance, the U.S. Postal Service, which has been photographing the exterior of every piece of paper mail for the past 20 years, is also spying on Americans’ texts, emails and social media posts. Headed up by the Postal Service’s law enforcement division, the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) is reportedly using facial recognition technology, combined with fake online identities, to ferret out potential troublemakers with “inflammatory” posts. The agency claims the online surveillance, which falls outside its conventional job scope of processing and delivering paper mail, is necessary to help postal workers avoid “potentially volatile situations.”

Threat assessments and AI algorithms. The government has a growing list—shared with fusion centers and law enforcement agencies—of ideologies, behaviors, affiliations and other characteristics that could flag someone as suspicious and result in their being labeled potential enemies of the state. Before long, every household in America will be flagged as a threat and assigned a threat score. It’s just a matter of time before you find yourself wrongly accused, investigated and confronted by police based on a data-driven algorithm or risk assessment culled together by a computer program run by artificial intelligence.

No-knock raids. No-knock, no-announce SWAT team raids are what passes for court-sanctioned policing in America today, and it could happen to any one of us. Nationwide, SWAT teams routinely invade homes, break down doors, kill family pets (they always shoot the dogs first), damage furnishings, terrorize families, and wound or kill those unlucky enough to be present during a raid. No longer reserved exclusively for deadly situations, SWAT teams are now increasingly being deployed for relatively routine police matters such as serving a search warrant, with some SWAT teams being sent out as much as five times a day. Police carry out tens of thousands of no-knock raids every year nationwide.

Militarized police. America is overrun with militarized cops—vigilantes with a badge—who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to “serve and protect.” It doesn’t matter where you live—big city or small town—it’s the same scenario being played out over and over again in which government agents, trained to act as judge, jury and executioner in their interactions with the public, ride roughshod over the rights of the citizenry. This is how we have gone from a nation of laws—where the least among us had just as much right to be treated with dignity and respect as the next person (in principle, at least)—to a nation of law enforcers (revenue collectors with weapons) who treat “we the people” like suspects and criminals.

Constitution-free zones. Merely living within 100 miles inland of the border around the United States is now enough to make you a suspect, paving the way for Border Patrol agents to search people’s homes, intimately probe their bodies, and rifle through their belongings, all without a warrant. Nearly 66% of Americans (2/3 of the U.S. population, 197.4 million people) now live within that 100-mile-deep, Constitution-free zone.

Asset forfeiture schemes. Americans no longer have a right to private property. If government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family, your property is no longer private and secure—it belongs to the government. Hard-working Americans are having their bank accounts, homes, cars electronics and cash seized by police under the assumption that they have been associated with some criminal scheme. As libertarian Harry Browne observed, “Asset forfeiture is a mockery of the Bill of Rights. There is no presumption of innocence, no need to prove you guilty (or even charge you with a crime), no right to a jury trial, no right to confront your accuser, no right to a court-appointed attorney (even if the government has just stolen all your money), and no right to compensation for the property that’s been taken.”

Vehicle kill switches. Sold to the public as a safety measure aimed at keeping drunk drivers off the roads, “vehicle kill switches” could quickly become a convenient tool in the hands of government agents to put the government in the driver’s seat while rendering null and void the Constitution’s requirements of privacy and its prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures. As such, it presumes every driver potentially guilty of breaking some law that would require the government to intervene and take over operation of the vehicle or shut it off altogether. The message: we cannot be trusted to obey the law or navigate the world on our end.

Bodily integrity. The government’s presumptions about our so-called guilt or innocence have extended down to our very cellular level. The debate over bodily integrity covers broad territory, ranging from forced vaccinations, forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws and forced breath-alcohol tests to forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, and forced inclusion in biometric databases: these are just a few ways in which Americans continue to be reminded that we have no real privacy, no real presumption of innocence, and no real control over what happens to our bodies during an encounter with government officials. The groundwork being laid with these mandates is a prologue to what will become the police state’s conquest of a new, relatively uncharted, frontier: inner space, specifically, the inner workings (genetic, biological, biometric, mental, emotional) of the human race. “Guilt by association” has taken on new connotations in the technological age. Yet the debate over genetic privacy—and when one’s DNA becomes a public commodity outside the protection of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on warrantless searches and seizures—is really only beginning. Get ready, folks, because the government has embarked on a diabolical campaign to create a nation of suspects predicated on a massive national DNA database.

Limitations on our right to move about freely. We think we have the freedom to go where we want and move about freely, but at every turn, we’re hemmed in by laws, fines and penalties that regulate and restrict our autonomy, and surveillance cameras that monitor our movements. For instance, license plate readers are mass surveillance tools that can photograph over 1,800 license tag numbers per minute, take a picture of every passing license tag number and store the tag number and the date, time, and location of the picture in a searchable database, then share the data with law enforcement, fusion centers and private companies to track the movements of persons in their cars. With tens of thousands of these license plate readers now in operation throughout the country, police can track vehicles and run the plates through law enforcement databases for abducted children, stolen cars, missing people and wanted fugitives. Of course, the technology is not infallible: there have been numerous incidents in which police have mistakenly relied on license plate data to capture suspects only to end up detaining innocent people at gunpoint.

The war on cash and the introduction of digital currency. Digital currency provides the government and its corporate partners with a mode of commerce that can easily be monitored, tracked, tabulated, mined for data, hacked, hijacked and confiscated when convenient. This push for a digital currency dovetails with the government’s war on cash, which it has been subtly waging for some time now. In recent years, just the mere possession of significant amounts of cash could implicate you in suspicious activity and label you a criminal. The rationale (by police) is that cash is the currency for illegal transactions given that it’s harder to track, can be used to pay illegal immigrants, and denies the government its share of the “take,” so doing away with paper money will help law enforcement fight crime and help the government realize more revenue. A cashless society—easily monitored, controlled, manipulated, weaponized and locked down—plays right into the hands of the government (and its corporate partners).

The Security-Industrial Complex. Every crisis—manufactured or otherwise—since the nation’s early beginnings has become a make-work opportunity for the government to expand its reach and its power at taxpayer expense while limiting our freedoms at every turn. What this has amounted to is a war on the American people, fought on American soil, funded with taxpayer dollars, and waged with a single-minded determination to use national crises, manufactured or otherwise, in order to transform the American homeland into a battlefield. As a result, the American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, denied due process, and killed.

These programs push us that much closer towards a suspect society where everyone is potentially guilty of some crime or another and must be preemptively rendered harmless.

The ramifications of empowering the government to sidestep fundamental due process safeguards are so chilling and so far-reaching as to put a target on the back of anyone who happens to be in the same place where a crime takes place.

The groundwork has been laid for a new kind of government where it won’t matter if you’re innocent or guilty, whether you’re a threat to the nation, or even if you’re a citizen. What will matter is what the government—or whoever happens to be calling the shots at the time—thinks. And if the powers-that-be think you’re a threat to the nation and should be locked up, then you’ll be locked up with no access to the protections our Constitution provides.

In effect, you will disappear.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, our freedoms are already being made to disappear.

Source: https://bit.ly/3OGn0Rv

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.