August 23, 2005 |
EVERY WEEK, it seems, a new form of technology for enforcing laws and improving security in America is debated - national ID cards, street cameras, computer-assisted profiling. And every week the same arguments, laden with Orwell references, are tossed around. Are we becoming a police state? Is it worth giving up this freedom for that security increase? True security will require sweeping increases in technology, but it will only help if we rethink how we create and enforce our laws.
June 17, 1987 |
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled with uncommon wisdom this week when it decided in an 8-1 decision that a Houston ordinance making it a crime to oppose or "interrupt any policeman in the execution of his duty" is unconstitutionally broad. Interference with police has resulted in numerous arrests throughout the country. And the entire issue has spawned predictable reactions among many citizens. "If suspects haven't done anything wrong, they ought to be willing to allow the police to search their persons, their cars or their homes.
June 7, 2013
It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer . - Sir William Blackstone That principle, expressed by an English jurist more than 250 years ago, is crucial to the way the laws are applied in the United States, where the presumption of innocence is considered sacrosanct - most of the time. At other times, our zeal to find the guilty can run roughshod over our constitutionally protected rights. Such is the case with the Supreme Court decision this week approving DNA collection from anyone arrested for a crime.
September 7, 2010
Armed government guards got on trains near the border to interrogate capriciously selected passengers about their citizenship and then carted away those who could not produce papers. The Soviet Union? East Germany? Well, no. It was the U.S. Border Patrol on an Amtrak in Rochester, N.Y. - close to the Canadian border. Border Patrol agents can question any person believed to be an alien concerning his or her right to be in America. They can do so within 100 miles from our external boundaries, including the one 12 miles off the coast.
March 8, 1998 |
Departing Police Commissioner Richard Neal was honored at a West Philadelphia street ceremony yesterday, but a principal speaker voiced concern that his replacement might return the city to the days of police brutality. Roland Delaney, a community activist known as the "mayor of 52d Street", told a crowd of about 200 people at the ceremony, "I'm hoping the next 22 months won't [bring] . . . a police state which our community will live to regret. " John F. Timoney, former first deputy commissioner of the New York City Police Department, takes office as Philadelphia police commissioner tomorrow.
September 30, 2009 |
The world economy may or may not have emerged stronger from last week's G-20 summit in Pittsburgh. And the first non-capital city to host the summit enjoyed the public-relations boon of showcasing its Phoenix-like rise from the ashes of the steel industry. But the Constitution took a hit. Government officials decided a massive, preemptive police presence was necessary to avoid the raucous demonstrations that marred past economic summits. They established a virtual police state that quickly extinguished any spark of dissent, and a federal court ruling gave them free rein to do so. To begin with, there was an oxymoronic requirement that groups get permits to march and demonstrate during the summit.
December 16, 2001
Though national polls show most Americans in favor of recent government actions to combat terrorism at home - such as military tribunals and secret detention of illegal immigrants - only about a third of about 100 responses we received approved of those policies. Rational, prudent measures I am a legal immigrant and a proud naturalized citizen of the United States who grew up in and then escaped from a police state. As a little girl in Hungary, I dreaded every knock on the front door and was petrified of men in uniforms.
March 22, 1992 |
What do two soccer coaches, a bobsledder, a legislator and a journalist have in common? The Stasi. Following revelation after revelation about the dreaded, now-defunct East German secret police force, which touched virtually every aspect of life in the old communist state, it sometimes seems harder to figure out who wasn't a collaborator than who was. Finally, 18 months after unification, the German Bundestag, or parliament, decided this...
July 28, 2004 |
This ain't Chicago, 1968. Or even Philadelphia, 2000. As of late last night, there had been not a single arrest at the Democratic National Convention. Massachusetts authorities had projected between 1,500 and 2,500 for the four-day convention. "It's been pretty amazing so far," said Dave Estrada, spokesman for the Boston Police Department, crediting a year of preparation among federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies. For their part, activists were crediting the locked-down nature of the convention center, the circling helicopters, the hidden cameras.
June 17, 1987
While noon bells bonged and SEPTA buses (fashionably red-white-and-blue) rumbled by the other day, business was sparse at the soapbox across from Independence Hall. It's a rustic, unimposing platform, the soapbox, inviting free speakers - as part of the city's Constitution celebration - to exercise their constitutional right to blow off steam, as long as they don't hog the space forever, or shout fire when none is in evidence. Charles Clark, a preacher from the Solid Rock Baptist Church in West Berlin, N.J., slipped his New Testament from his back pocket, mounted the soapbox, cupped his hands to his mouth and railed about gays and those who would "throw prayer out of the public schools.