In our zeal to get the bad guys and keep our streets safe, we have to pause and realize that perceived safety comes with a price. Do you really want to live in a world where police can stop you for minor violations and molest you or your relatives in the name of public safety? Well, that’s what happened on camera recently in Texas.
In an appalling display of the abuse of police power, a State Trooper stopped a female driver and her niece (who was a passenger) for throwing cigarettes out the window. The Trooper first tells them he’s going to give them a citation and goes back to his vehicle. Instead, he has already made up his mind that he will search the ladies and the vehicle based on his claim that he smells marijuana. He calls a female trooper to come and search them. In the meantime, he calls the female driver out of the car and interrogates her about having marijuana. She denies having any marijuana on her or in the car (which she says is her boyfriend’s car). Despite the fact that she is cooperative and behaves normally, the trooper tells the female trooper that they are both “acting a little weird” and says he particularly wants to target the driver, who he is “skeptical of”.
While the male Trooper searches the vehicle without a warrant and without consent (believe it or not, this is generally legal when a law enforcement officer claims to have probable cause based upon the smell of marijuana), the female trooper puts on gloves and searches both female subjects by rubbing down their breasts and then shoving her hand down the back and front of their pants and “digging around”, without changing her gloves between searches.
Important to note, no marijuana or other illegal drugs are found.
How can this happen? It is because we are continuously demanding from our politicians, lawmakers, police, prosecutors, and judges that we need to get “tough on crime”. We have caused them to respond to our calls by empowering the police to stop and search you without much restriction. Simply put, if an officer wants to search you, they can and will. All they have to do is claim they smelled pot. Who can dispute the claim? Or, they can bring out a dog and claim it alerted. How can any one doubt it? Even I can make a dog sit, speak or scratch (the most common “alerts”).
I’m sure that most law enforcement officers are just trying to do their job and are not consciously fabricating probable cause to search without a warrant. But cops are people too. They are under pressure to make arrests, get convictions and generally “get tough on crime”. They are people, like the rest of us, prone to misperceiving events or misunderstanding behavior. They might act on a “hunch”, only to be wrong – which is no fun if you are the person at the other end of that equation.
Our laws and legal standards need to require more from our police before they may infringe upon your personal rights. Law officers should not be able to interfere with your private life unless they have a warrant, as the constitution requires. The exceptions to the requirement of a warrant should be just that – exceptions. Those exceptions should be verifiable and objectively reasonable. “Probable cause” should not just mean “possible cause”.
Keep in mind that in human history, and even today in many parts of the world, countless atrocities against humans have occurred at the hands of governments that have been given too much power. Your constitutional rights are not just given to you to protect you against street criminals, they are given to you to protect you against government abuse.