Who will protect you from the local police
“Democracy means that if the doorbell rings in the early hours, it is likely to be the milkman.” — Winston Churchill
It’s 3 a.m. You’ve been asleep for hours when suddenly you hear a loud “Crash! Bang! Boom!”
Based on the yelling, shouting and mayhem, it sounds as if someone — or several someones — are breaking through your front door.
With your heart racing and your stomach churning, all you can think about is keeping your family safe from the intruders who have invaded your home. You have mere seconds before the intruders make their way to your bedroom.
Desperate to protect your loved ones, you scramble to lay hold of something — anything — that you might use in self-defense. It might be a flashlight, your son’s baseball bat, or that still unloaded gun you thought you’d never need.
In a matter of seconds, the intruders are at your bedroom door. You brace for the confrontation, a shaky grip on your weapon. In the moments before you go down for the count, shot multiple times by the strangers who have invaded your home, you get a good look at your accosters. It’s the police.
Before I go any further, let me start by saying this: the problem is not that all police are bad. The problem, as I point out in my book, “A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State,” is that increasing numbers of police officers are badly trained, illiterate when it comes to the Constitution, especially the Fourth Amendment, and, in some cases, willfully ignorant about the fact that they are supposed to be peacekeepers working for us, the taxpayer.
Consider, for example, the sad scenario that played out when a SWAT team kicked open the door of ex-Marine Jose Guerena’s home during a drug raid and opened fire.
Thinking his home was being invaded by criminals, Guerena told his wife and child to hide in a closet, grabbed a gun and waited in the hallway to confront the intruders. He never fired his weapon.
In fact, the safety was still on his gun when he was killed. The SWAT officers, however, not as restrained, fired 70 rounds of ammunition at Guerena — 23 of those bullets made contact. Guerena had had no prior criminal record, and the police found nothing illegal in his home.
Then there was the time police used a battering ram to break into the home of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnson, mistakenly believing her house to be a drug den. Fearing that burglars were entering her home, which was situated in a dangerous neighborhood, Johnson fired a warning shot when the door burst open. Police unleashed a hail of gunfire, hitting Johnson with six bullets. Johnson died.
Eighty-year-old Eugene Mallory suffered a similar fate when deputies with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, claiming to have smelled chemicals related to the manufacture of methamphetamine, raided the multi-unit property in which Mallory lived. Thinking that his home was being invaded by burglars, Mallory allegedly raised a gun at the intruders, who shot him six times. Mallory died.
“The lesson here,” observed the spokesman for the sheriff’s department, “is don’t pull a gun on a deputy.”
In Fort Worth, Texas, two rookie police officers sent to investigate a possible burglary circled 72-year-old Jerry Waller’s house with flashlights shining. Waller, concerned that his home was being cased, went to his garage, armed with a gun for self-defense. The two officers snuck up on Waller, who raised his gun on the intruders. When Waller failed to obey orders to lower his gun, the officers shot and killed him. It turned out the officers had gone to the wrong address. They blamed the shooting death on “poor lighting.”
In Sarasota, Fla., a mixture of federal and local police converged on the apartment complex where Louise Goldsberry lived after receiving a tip that a child rape suspect was in the complex. Unaware of police activity outside, Louise was washing dishes in her kitchen when a man wearing what appeared to be a hunting vest pointed a rifle at her through her window. Fearing that she was about to be attacked, Louise retrieved her revolver from her bedroom.
Meanwhile, the man began pounding on Louise’s front door, saying, “We’re the f@#$ing police; open the f@#$ing door.” Identifying himself as a police officer, the rifle-wielding man then opened the door, pointed a gun at Goldsberry and her boyfriend, who was also present, and yelled, “Drop the f@#$ing gun or I’ll f@#$ing shoot you.”
Ironically, the officer later justified his behavior on the grounds that he didn’t like having a gun pointed at him and because “I have to go home at night.”
These incidents underscore a dangerous mindset in which civilians (often unarmed and defenseless) not only have less rights than militarized police, but also one in which the safety of civilians is treated as a lower priority than the safety of their police counterparts (who are armed to the hilt with an array of lethal and nonlethal weapons), the privacy of civilians is negligible in the face of the government’s various missions, and the homes of civilians are no longer the refuge from government intrusion that they once were.
It wasn’t always this way. There was a time in America when a man’s home really was a sanctuary where his family could be safe and secure from the threat of invasion by government agents.
To our detriment, we have been transported back to a time before the American Revolution when government agents — with the blessing of the courts — could force their way into a citizen’s home, with seemingly little concern for lives lost and property damaged in the process.
Indeed, if Winston Churchill is correct that “democracy means that if the doorbell rings in the early hours, it is likely to be the milkman,” then it’s safe to say that we no longer live in a democracy.
Certainly not in a day and age when the Fourth Amendment, which was intended to protect us against the police state, especially home invasions by government agents, has been reduced to little more than words on paper.
[Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute and editor of GadflyOnline.com. His latest book, “A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State” (SelectBooks), is available online at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]