Civil Liberties, Law and Order, and the Police State in Philly: What Sacrifices are You Willing to Make?

With great timing, I flew into Heathrow Airport on Friday night/Saturday morning. Instead of normal carry-on procedures, I got handed a plastic bag, which I could bring my wallet, my passport, and my keys. And then our little plastic bags were examined by multiple groups of security guards. It was a real pain in the butt, but, of course, everyone accepts it. People have come to understand that when you get on an airplane, you give up certain liberties, and you intrust the FAA or TSA or whomever, is simply doing what they have to do to make you safe.

So, what rights are you willing to give up in Philly? Obviously, it is a different situation, but, as John Baer notes (in a column I think is more on point than his ode to the welfare queen), there is basically a war going on in our City:

This is a rate of carnage not unlike that found in a war zone.

It's almost 200 shootings a month, nearly seven a day.

It's virtually the same rate as that of U.S. wounded in the first seven months of the war in Iraq.

Let me stress that.

Shootings in the streets of Philadelphia occur at a rate comparable to the rate of U.S. soldiers wounded at the start of the war in Iraq.

And the mayor's public response, as far as I can tell, is to say things were worse under former mayors and the city doesn't need help from the National Guard or lots more cops (even though his own police commissioner says so) or the state police.

In a way, I think the numbers are worse than they seem. Why? Because as he notes in particular neighborhoods, shootings are sky rocketing. Yet, in a place like Center City, there is little violence. It is a good example of how we live in ocnstant danger of becoming two cities. One, Center City and its surrounding neighborhoods mixed with Chestnut Hill, W. Mt. Airy, and the Far Northeast, where everyone feels safe. And then, the rest of the City, where shootings have become a way of life.

Anyway, back to my original question: How much are you willing to sacrifice to make Philadelphia safer? As I said, I am not a big supporter of law and order pandering, since it provides no long term solution that attacks the roots causes of crime. But, if the root causes were addressed, to provide a long term fix, what temporary losses would you be willing to deal with?

I am willing to accept any me

I am willing to accept any means necessary to allow Philadelphia's citizens to live in a safe neighborhood/city without the fear of being injured or killed by thugs.

I am not willing to accept the trampling the rights that I hold dear by the police.

I can be more vague than that. But, this is the balance, and that is why we have a independent judiciary. Police have many abilities to search and seize aside from the traditional probable cause requirement, e.g. Terry stops. Just because you disagree with it, does not make it illegal or unconstitutional. The development of police tactics should be encouraged. I do favor video surveillance, as we have no expectation of privacy on a public street. Ultimately, these will test the limits of our constitutional protections. This is the system we choose.

So, in my opinion, the issue is not what I would tolerate, it is what the Constitution would tolerate. If we had a tyranny, gun violence would be easily stamped out. But, fortunately, we do not have such a system. We would not want to live under such a system.

And, if I may be permitted a tangent here: Lynne Abraham is an officer of the court who should have her license taken away from her. The judiciary is independent for a reason, and her and her office's criticisms of our judges is completely unacceptable. Judges cannot fight back. They cannot politicize their job. She takes advantage of that and, like the far right, makes our nation less secure by threatening the nature of our INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY.

Thank you.

How about gun checkpoints for all?

I know Ben did his piece on how it wasn't fair for paroles to have to be subject to searches for illegal guns. Considering that paroles already had lots of hoops to jump through--like not being able to vote or basically find jobs--if a law were passed just for paroles, I'd think I'd be annoyed but I wouldn't waste political capital opposing it.

What I don't understand is why Philadelphia police can't set up "gun checkpoints" for everyone just like they do for drunk drivers. There are issues certainly, such as the fact that gun search would probably be more likely to occur in certain neighborhoods but we can avoid that by insisting that searches be somewhat scattered and random. But I think the good citizens of most neighborhoods would trade a little inconvenience for some safety. I'd be for purchasing a couple of mobile metal detectors, installing them on a pickup truck and parking them at a corner. Everyone who walks within 150 yards of the spot has to go through the metal detector. If an illegal gun is found, it's confiscated. Small quantities of drug could be ignored.

A checkpoint would force criminals to be more careful about carrying around their guns. It might take some the violent out of the drug trade. The other think that I think is imperative is that if you really want reduce the drug trade, you have to put some pressure on demand. In other words, you need to do something that we rarely do--prosecute buyers.

So my two point proposal to reduce gun violence are:
1) Institute gun checkpoints where needed
2) Prosecute and have stiffer penalties for drug buyers

We have our police officers from the top down thinking that their job is to win the drug war. While Philly may not be able to change the gun laws, I fail to see why we can't selectively enforce laws based on our own priorities.

key word

"temporary" is a huge word in your question. my fear is that few, if any, intrusions, once we got used to them, would ever be rolled back. if nothing else, supporters would claim that such measures were responsible for all successes, and thus removing them would mean a return of the original problems. plus, I fear that heavy-handed tactics wouldn't be supplemented with long-term cause-oriented solutions that would be critical to any lasting cure.

dunno. maybe I'm a pessimist. or maybe I'm living in the Bush/Gonzales era of very slim civil rights protections already...


"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
— Margaret Mead

Uh, let me just say I strongl

Uh, let me just say I strongly don't think ratcheting up a local war on drugs will have any positive results whatsoever.

I agree...I'm for basically tactically condoning drug sales

but at the same time I fail to see how you can get guns off the streets without acknowledging and changing the way we police the drug trade. In effect, I'd be for a wink-wink drug policy in exchange for a just say no gun policy.

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