Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An open letter to the Police Department of Clute, Texas

To Chief Mark Wicker, Det. Scotty Harris, and the rest of the Clute PD:

I am writing this because I am a concerned citizen. No, I am not a citizen of Clute, TX, I merely work there. I work for a privately-owned corporation located just a few blocks from your station. In addition to providing goods and services to the rest of the Clute and its surrounding communities, the company I work for also provides many of these same goods and services to your department (at discount prices, I might add, for both police AND private vehicles). Also, I have personally generated thousands of dollars worth of sales tax in the past two and a half years I've been working in Clute, on top of the many more thousands of dollars generated by my coworkers every year. It is your patrol cars I see on my way in and out of work every morning and evening, not the cars of the Angleton PD.

The reason I write this letter is because I am losing faith in your city's ability to properly protect and serve the residents and "non-resident visitors" (such as myself), after hearing of the events of the past few weeks.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am very much concerned with the actions of those elected, appointed, and paid by the people to serve the people. Where the police are involved, the Clute PD appears to be doing just fine apprehending criminals, and I have no complaints there, seeing as how I am not a criminal. My biggest issue with the Clute PD, as with just about every other police department I've ever encountered, is the willingness of certain officers to violate the basic and essential civil liberties given by God Himself and protected by the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America.

Please pay attention to the bolded sections of the first and fourth amendments:

Amendment 1: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment 4: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, , papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

To Chief Mark Wicker...when you were instructed to search and seize the papers of Facts reporter Katlynn Lanham, it was not upon reasonable suspicion that the papers were evidence of a crime having been committed. This is, quite simply, because a report compiled with the use of taxpayer money is not "privileged information". Furthermore, it is certainly no excuse to say that you only did what you were "told to do". If you need further information on that subject, I would gladly refer you to a few hundred Nazis...except that we've already hanged them, for "just following orders".

The fact of the matter is, quite simply, that you did what those in a position to terminate your employment were telling you to do, with complete and utter contempt for the highest law of this land. Not only did you attempt to obstruct the operation of a free and open press in violation of the first amendment, you also violated the Fourth Amendment's protection against an unlawful search and seizure. As Clute's highest-ranking law enforcement officer, I think you owe an apology to that reporter for violating her right to be secure in her person, papers, and effects...and you owe every single person that would ever travel through the city of Clute for any reason whatsoever an assurance that the officers of the Clute Police Department will not be permitted to unlawfully search and seize the property of private citizens. We all make mistakes. Being a man does not mean you're perfect; but rather, admitting when you have acted imperfectly.

To Detective Scotty Harris...while I only know Chief Wicker from what little professional interaction I have had with him (so little I doubt he would even remember me), I do remember sitting through an entire semester of sociology with you. We shared quite a few differing opinions, but I think your heart and mind are in the right place.

I do, however, have a few issues with the way you publicly insulted many people in this county with the remarks you made concerning the issue at hand, myself included.

First and foremost, let us not forget that a person need not be a resident of Clute, TX to help put food on your table. As I stated above, I personally gathered enough money for the city of Clute to pay about a month of your salary last year. Regardless of that fact, it is your job to serve every person who happens to be in the city of Clute, TX for whatever reason, and I am one of those people at least five days a week. Essentially, what I am getting at is quite simple...you are employed to serve me, from the time I enter the city of Clute until the time I leave it. I didn't force you to become a policeman, this is a job you willfully accepted of your own volition, no different than my own job in that respect. Since I DO contribute to your salary, I would appreciate it if, in the future, you would not tell me and others like me to "get a life" and "become a productive member of society", because we are the ones who allow you to do what you do for a living.

Second, I am quite concerned over your publicly-expressed opinion that it is legal for an officer to perform an action that is so blatantly illegal, because this can result from only one of two causes. Either A) you are uneducated, concerning the protections of the first and fourth amendments of our constitution, or B) you are fully aware that your chief's actions were unethical and unlawful, and you are choosing to put your superior before the citizens you are paid by and sworn to serve.

If we are speaking of the former, this is a problem easily remedied. I know you are an intelligent individual, and you should have no problem with being able to study up on constitutional law and how it concerns the actions of law enforcement. If our problem is of the latter sort, it is a very serious problem, because it means you cannot be trusted to fulfill your duties as a law enforcement officer without being willing to break the very laws you are sworn to uphold. I seriously hope our problem resides solely with a misunderstanding of the fourth amendment.

To the other officers of the Clute Police Department...I have never had anything but positive interaction with any of you, while you were in uniform or out of it. It is my sincere hope that this situation does not change, because I do spend such a great deal of time in the city of Clute. I am trusting that the countless hours of training and education each and every one of you has been through will not be wasted on the idea that some "code of honor" within your department will require or even allow you to turn a blind eye, if one of your fellow officers should ever break the law, even if ordered to do so from his or her superiors. You not only have a professional obligation to enforce the laws of this land, but you also have a moral and ethical obligation to ensure that yourself and your fellow officers are following those same laws.

In closing, I would hope that anyone who reads this letter takes it to heart, and sees it for what it is. I have no ill will toward any member of law enforcement (Clute PD or any other agency), except those who would use their badge to justify an illegal, immoral, or unethical action. Call it like you see it, because the truth will set you free.

-Barry H. Rhodes

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