To Harass and Terrorize

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In
its lead story in the Thursday March 8, 2001, edition of the Forsyth
County News, the Georgia newspaper (Motto: Your "Hometown
Paper" Since 1908), ran an article under the headline: "Drug
dogs are familiar sight on school campuses." Forsyth
County
is a rural bedroom community in the northern suburbs
of Atlanta, Georgia.

To
quote the article, "Deputies are increasingly using drug-sniffing
dogs in searches of lockers and cars at Forsyth County middle and
high schools.

The
searches are done as a cooperative effort between the county sheriff's
office and school system as part of the ongoing war on drugs and
in response to heightened fears about school safety. There is no
specific reason deputies are appearing more this year on campuses
with the dogs, said Capt. Ernie Born, commander of special operations
for the sheriff's office.

"u2018We
have the resources, so we might as well use them,' Born said Tuesday."

The
article continues, "In some cases, deputies theorized the dogs
were sniffing marijuana smoke in the (automobile) upholstery. Deputies
also have walked canines by lockers at a handful of middle schools.
No arrests have been made as a result of the searches.

Deputy
Jody Chapman said the practice is a preventative measure, designed
to keep campuses free of drugs, more than to "bust" students
while they are in class.

"u2018All
it takes is one student to look out a window and it goes around
the school we're out there with the dogs. It scares them,' Chapman
said."

No
kidding, Deputy Chapman. Dogs on the leashes of armed agents of
the government have a long and colorful history of scaring the crap
out of people, from runaway slaves to Jews being herded into boxcars
on their way to concentration camps.

This
article in "Your u2018Hometown Paper' Since 1908" captures
in a microcosm the rot to our institutions that is being caused
by our government's ill-conceived "war on drugs."

For
starters, we have the local authorities, and the school administrators
who accompany them, wandering about the school campus with German
Shepherds looking for evidence of criminal activity without probable
cause, other than the fact that the officers "know" that
some of these kids are using drugs.

Second,
we have the officers promoting the theory that "the dogs were
sniffing marijuana smoke in the (automobile) upholstery" of
some of the cars in the parking lot. No physical evidence necessary,
thank you very much.

By
the officer's own admission, there is "no specific reason"
for the activity that they are engaged in, they simply "have
the resources, so we might as well use them." There is something
morally repugnant when the police feel justified in scaring middle
and high school kids with dogs because they "have the resources."

Of
course, the officers in question certainly feel justified in their
activity. They are theoretically preventing crimes from taking place
on our public school grounds. You can hear the argument now: If
you aren't guilty, you have nothing to be afraid of. When you extend
this argument logically, however, it falls apart in tatters.

If
the officers are justified in their actions with no evidence of
a crime being committed, where does it stop? Should we start searching
every car on the street or every individual's home simply because
we are certain that somebody, somewhere is breaking the law, and
besides, "we have the resources"?

Why
not post checkpoints with a rising gate and a guard shack at all
county borders where we can check the citizens' papers and let the
dogs sniff for illegal contraband? After all, surely somebody on
these highways is breaking the law. The job of law enforcement would
be a helluva lot easier if we could just get rid of that pesky Bill
of Rights.

According
to an article in the July 17, 2000, issue of U.S. News and World
Report, entitled "The
Case of the Missing Cops
", Potsdam, Ohio Police Chief Bobby
Chaney proposed just that. In an effort to latch onto a share of
President Clinton's COPS program funding, Chaney proposed "raising
the match (locally provided matching funds required by the federal
program) by launching Driving Under the Influence checkpoints, issuing
speed citations, and making the village eligible for asset forfeiture
funds through a K-9 unit, which would sniff out drugs on local roads.
"It would have been top notch," says Chaney, insisting
he was just trying to keep a lid on crime. But residents were not
impressed: 80 out of 100 polled opposed fattening the force, agreeing
with a Dayton Daily News headline that tagged the chief's
grand scheme u2018Mad Stop.'"

According
to the article, "Potsdam, Ohio, (population 250) consists of
100 houses scattered around two principal streets: Main and Cross.
There are no stoplights, stores, gas stations, or restaurants. Yet
from October to February, this tiny village northwest of Dayton
employed 11 police officers, three full-time and eight part-time.
At 1 cop for every 35 residents (the national average: 1 officer
per 400 residents), Potsdam, at least in theory, was America's most
tightly patrolled town."

Fortunately
for the residents of Potsdam, they got a whiff of the kind of tyranny
that the empire-building Chaney was proposing and decided enough
was enough. The outraged citizens demanded a return of the $300,000
in federal money. The question is, how many other communities didn't,
either out of ignorance of what was happening to their local constabulary,
or just through apathy?

"We
have the resources" becomes a vicious cycle. If the police
don't "have the resources," the citizens are asked
to provide them in order to prosecute the war on drugs. If they
do "have the resources," the police feel compelled
to use them in order to justify the expenditure. All across America
we have sprouted local paramilitary organizations whose sole reason
for existence is to interdict illegal drugs. Assuming for a moment
(and this is a real stretch) that these interdiction efforts will
eventually be successful, will these units go away, or will these
organizations always be on the lookout for the next boogieman that
will require their continued funding?

The
corrosive effect of our "war on drugs" has corrupted our
communities' relationship with our police nearly to the point of
no return. "To Serve and Protect" has become "To
Harass and Terrorize" in less than a generation. Random roadblocks
are becoming a standard law enforcement practice, even when there
is no evidence of a crime being committed. "Just need to see
your insurance card, sir", or "Just checking for compliance
with the seatbelt law", or whatever, all the while the German
Shepherd circles your car.

Today,
many police see themselves at war with the citizens in their community.
Pick up a copy of a periodical like "Guns
and Weapons for Law Enforcement
" and you will get the gist
of the situation. Do we really need every Andy
Taylor
in every Mayberry in America outfitted in a Kevlar helmet
and BDU, toting an AR-15 and kicking in doors? Is that the kind
of relationship that we want to have with our local authorities?

Well,
if it isn't time is running out. Just ask the kids looking out the
window at the Forsyth County sheriffs and their drug-sniffing dogs.
They are getting the message loud and clear.

March
10, 2001

Jef
Allen is a technology professional in Georgia. As a reformed Yankee,
who has lived in the South for roughly twenty years, he has very
little tolerance for Northern sanctimony, or the erosion of individual
liberty.

Jef
Allen Archives

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