Tuesday, August 12, 2008

CRU and the assault on the Constitution

HPD's Crime Reduction Unit (CRU) is making the city safe from the likes of hardened criminals like jaywalkers and bicyclists. It's the cops' version of the lottery -- harass, cuff and search minorities and hope you find a stash of drugs in their pockets, socks or shoes.

Officers in this $5 million unit are targeting those committing Class C violations and using that as their ticket to violate their 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. The cops figure someone in that neighborhood is up to no good and so they create a pretext for a warrant check and a search - for without probable cause, the case won't stick.

CRU operates much the same as the DWI Task Force -- watch someone long enough and they're bound to give you a reason to stop them. Most of the DWI arrests I've dealt with weren't the result of bad driving -- they were the result of someone getting stopped for failing to signal a lane change, squealing their tires leaving an intersection and speeding. The cops know that going out on DWI duty on a weekend night near an entertainment district is like shooting fish in a barrel -- but they have to create a reason for the stop.

Combine this with courts' narrowing definition of a seizure and it adds up to an erosion of our rights as citizens. Sure, no one wants drunks driving on the streets and no one is in favor of a drug dealer setting up station across the street from them, but when we allow the State to strip the rights of those accused of unpopular crimes, we make it easier for the State to strip our own rights.

For an example look no further than the hysteria following 9/11. In the name of fighting terrorism the American people meekly stepped aside and allowed the federales to tap our phones and our e-mail, to engage in domestic espionage and the limit our freedom to travel. Our government calls al-Qaeda a bunch of savages, yet we say nothing as our government authorizes the torture and humiliation of prisoners -- including our own citizens.

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