When Watertown was locked down to search for the second Marathon bombing suspect, it did not raise many eyebrows since we were all still on the edge of our seats, waiting for the word that he had been captured. But once the smoke cleared, it alarmed many to find that the mainstream media had misled viewers into thinking that door to door searches of residences in Watertown were consensual. In fact Fourth amendment rights were violated wholesale, and in the end the heavy policy presence and door to door rights violations did not yield the suspect. Just minutes after police declared the lockdown was lifted, a man spotted the suspect in his boat in the backyard, and called police. To be clear, the heavy police presence and suspension of Constitutional rights did not lead to the suspect’s capture.
I am very grateful that we have such a highly skilled police force in this country who can track down and capture criminals, but I am concerned over the new trend that says we should all be willing to forfeit our rights anytime something is deemed an emergency. A couple videos have surfaced of the police raids on Watertown, in which police order a family out of their home to conduct a search of their house. There were reportedly no warrants, and the searches were placed in the same category of hot pursuit not requiring a warrant. But this was not hot pursuit (they didn’t know where the suspect was) and no suspect had been seen entering the homes being searched by police.
Doesn’t it seem like it would have been just as effective, and in accordance with our Fourth amendment rights, if instead of doing door to door searches of homes, the heavy police presence was limited to streets and public property? This would mean that if the suspect tried to move, he would be caught, and if anyone discovered him in or around their home they could call the police, as happened in the end. With a heavy police presence in the area the suspect could have been cornered in no time, as is what happened after the lockdown was lifted.
The concern is that innocent people are not supposed to be treated like criminals. With a search warrant police have the backing of the courts, and whoevers’ property is being searched is informed of the reason. In these circumstances people were not informed of their rights, because their rights had been suspended, according to police they had none. It is easy to stomach that kind of behavior from the police in the wake of a terrorist attack, but we have to remember that the Fourth amendment protects us from the government. The next time a town is facing lockdown for an emergency situation, it will be too late to protest, because lots of men with big guns will be acting the same way we just said was okay last weekend. Maybe we will disagree that the situation is an emergency, but we won’t have the ability to make that decision at the time. If every crime is treated as an emergency situation suspending Fourth amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, than the right will cease to exist. There are always crimes occurring all over the place, so any search could be justified if the police are the only ones with the information on the situation. It is coming to a scary day when police can order you out of your home without a warrant, point guns at you and your children screaming for you to keep your hands up, and the public just accepts it as necessary to protect us.
The point of objective laws is that they are always the same, so that a person knows in advance if they are violating the law. Likewise our rights are objective, so that no matter the circumstance, we will have protection from certain practices. An “emergency situation” is arbitrary, and could be used at any time the government sees it as serving their purposes. We should not have to give up our rights because of a terrorist attack or criminal activity in our vicinity. I think this situation proves that law enforcement and government went too far when they ignored the Fourth amendment rights of Watertown residents, and came up with no results. Only after the rights of innocent citizens were done being violated was the suspected terrorist found, and captured legally in a way that proved the earlier police force against law abiding civilians unnecessary and ineffective for the goal of capturing the bombing suspect. Right now is the time to have this conversation, before another emergency is declared and our rights are suspended again. A right is not something that can be suspended, and it exists whether or not the government recognizes it, or violates it. Don’t give up essential liberty to obtain the facade of temporary safety.
Check out the article from DailyMail here, and the video below.