Today, in the halls of the United States Supreme Court, the case of Arizona v. Gant was heard. For the past 28 years, the ruling of New York v. Belton was the legal precedent used to provide for warrantless searches of vehicles immediately after the arrest of the occupant. The ruling was based upon the case of a man arrested for drug possession (in this case, marijuana, after smelling burnt herb and seeing an envelope marked "Super Gold"). After the arrest, the vehicle was searched, and cocaine was found in the pocket of a jacket inside the vehicle.
Since the time of the Belton ruling, which was handed down in good faith to provide officers a legal means of seizing evidence of a crime after a legitimate arrest, it was criticized because its broadly-worded opinion failed to meet the requirements of the Fourth Amendment.
For the past 28 years, an officer was lawfully allowed to search your vehicle after arresting you, even though you may have been arrested for an offense where there was no possible manner in which to gather "evidence" from a search...which directly violated the Fourth Amendment.
In the Gant case, Mr. Gant was arrested for driving with a suspended license. Subsequent to his arrest, Mr. Gant's vehicle was searched, and there was a small amount (typically referred to as a "personal usage" amount) of cocaine found in his jacket. *NOTE TO COKE HEADS...STOP PUTTING YOUR COKE IN YOUR JACKET, THEY KNOW WHERE TO LOOK!*
Since the officer had no reason to believe that Gant had access to the vehicle after his arrest, nor was there any further evidence toward the original offense of driving without a license that could have been gathered by searching his vehicle, the Supreme Court of the United States holds by majority opinion that it is UNLAWFUL for a law enforcement officer to search an occupant's vehicle if there is no possibility of evidence being gained by search of the vehicle, and the vehicle is not accessible to the suspect at the time of the search for purposes of accessing a weapon or destroying evidence.
Did I mention that it is still legal in the state of Texas to arrest a person for not using a turn signal? There is no evidence that can be gathered to substantiate the claim that a turn signal was not used, by searching a vehicle...but that search, until this afternoon, was considered "routine" and "legal".
Remember this date, kids. April 21, 2009. It's the date that our Supreme Court put a serious dent in the tyrannical actions of our police department, and upheld a specific portion of our Bill of Rights!
Moving right along to the "War on Some Drugs", the "zero tolerance" policies in our public school systems, et cetera. Today, the court is hearing the case of a young lady (she was THIRTEEN YEARS OLD at the time) being strip searched at school.
The young lady, now in college, was forced to remove her clothing and "shake out" her undergarments, exposing her breasts and pelvic area to school administration staff...because an "anonymous tip" informed school officials that she had *gasp!* PRESCRIPTION-STRENGTH IBUPROFEN. Yes, she was said to be carrying a strong remedy for headaches.
Did I mention that Ibuprofen won't get you stoned, get you "wired", get you tired, et cetera? It's not an upper, a downer, or a hallucinogen. It's an analgesic...a HEADACHE REMEDY. It's called "prescription strength" because it contains as much active ingredient in one tablet as four over-the-counter tablets.
Oh yeah, btw...NO TABLETS OF IBUPROFEN WERE FOUND. I'm quite anxious to hear the ruling on this one.
Now, moving on to the militarization of our police forces. As I've shown in a previous post, our Law Enforcement community is already benefiting greatly from the Pentagon's L.E.S.O. program...the one in which our local pork gets military-grade hardware for nothing, via the Pentagon's out-phasing of old equipment.
It seems that the Harris County Sheriff's Department has felt the need to ask the Justice Department for $7 MILLION in federal "stimulus funding", for the purposes of purchasing a helicopter, a surveillance van, and EIGHT MACHINE GUNS, among other things.
Okay, I can understand the helicopter. Even when the police are operating under the bare minimum of necessity for the safety and security of a free society, sometimes the ability to locate a dangerous criminal is necessary. I won't touch that one, because I don't disagree with the police having a helicopter (unless, of course, it is used in an illegal and/or unconstitutional manner). Catching a dangerous criminal in the fastest possible manner will, in fact, pay off in terms of safety and security for the rest of us.
Now, moving right along to the other list of desirements (read: "shit they want, but don't really need"). A surveillance van? Are you kidding me? Surely, you jest! And to spend a hundred and thirteen grand on it? Seriously, folks. Someone's brother-in-law is about to make a killing here! We're talking 900% markups! For real. Even purchased at typical retail value (neglecting any "law enforcement discounts"), a brand-new panel van can be had for roughly $20k.
As far as surveillance equipment goes, the list of stuff you actually *NEED* is quite small, now that we live in the digital age. A good high-definition video camera, a FLIR camera, laser microphone for recording audio (a laser mic records minute vibrations from a window, which are caused by sound, and is the easiest way of recording without planting a transmitter "bug"), receivers for radio transmitters for audio and video, remote transmitters for audio and video, and a SEPARATE HIGH-QUALITY COMPUTER FOR EACH can be had for under $35k...and that's paying Sheriff's Department motor pool and Info Tech people to install them, after they've been purchased at retail price.
Seriously, folks...I work in the 12v industry. I can buy this stuff off the shelf, right now, and put one of these vans together for a smidgen of that price.
In addition to the amount of money that's so obviously being pissed away, let's look at what they would be "surveilling" with this van. Most probably, it's going to be "vice" crimes, which are not directly physically or financially harmful to ANYONE except the consenting adults that participate in such actions. I don't smoke crack, bang hookers, or gamble...but I don't think that four times my annual salary should be spent building a van that will enable the police to lock people up (also at our expense), prosecute these people (also at our expense), and imprison these people (also at our expense) for engaging in activities that only their spouses, children, and employers (in the case of drug use) have a right to know about.
Okay, that one kinda miffed me a bit, but here's the one I absolutely CANNOT wrap my warped little head around. Eight friggin' machine guns, for "patrol boats"? Where the hell do we live? Somewhere in 'Nam? No, people. This is TEXAS! Our cops don't need machine guns!
They especially don't need to be spending more than TWENTY ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS A PIECE for them. What the hell are they trying to get, a GE Vulcan? No, I'm sorry, but you really don't need such a thing for "patrols".
Furthermore, even IF WE NEEDED our local Sheriffs patrolling our waterways with machine guns (which we most certainly don't), there's no way in hell they should be costing more than five grand a piece. I'm sorry, but you're just a cop, and this is Harris County. The Mekong Delta and the Bay of Pigs aren't anywhere near you. If your shotguns, your rifles, and your sidearms won't do the trick, you don't need a machine gun. You need the US Navy.
Specifically, I'd like to know exactly what FOUR PATROL BOATS, FOR THE ENTIRETY OF HARRIS COUNTY, are planning on shooting at with MACHINE GUNS. I don't live in Harris County (thank God!), but I most certainly have an income tax liability...which means, on top of all the other random bullshit we're wasting our money on, I'm also helping to pay for this crap. A bunch of wanna-be Rambo weekend warriors with machine guns mounted on "patrol boats". For what? So they can further threaten an intoxicated jet-skier, as if a mere pistol wouldn't do the job well enough? They'll both kill you just as dead. Really. What's the point?
Perhaps the most important question we should be asking here, however, is simply this:
WHAT THE HELL DO ANY OF THESE THREE EXPENDITURES HAVE TO DO WITH STIMULATING OUR ECONOMY?