REGISTER VIEWPOINT: Protecting Americans, the right way

We ask our safety forces to do dangerous things in our name, and for that they should be respected. But there are tho
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

We ask our safety forces to do dangerous things in our name, and for that they should be respected.

But there are those who seem to think that respect equates to blind acceptance of everything they do, whether it's too much power given to them or excessive use of that power by individuals who let the badges go to their heads.

And it doesn't take much fear for our safety to let that attitude gain ground. All-too-recent world history is full of examples of what happens when you go too far down that road.

That's why it's necessary to stand up and call foul when looking out for our safety turns into apparent harassment of anyone who is simply different -- as is alleged in the lawsuit filed by civil rights lawyers against three local police agencies and the U.S. Department of Customs and Border Protection, more familiarly known as Border Patrol.

That suit, filed by Advocates for Basic Legal Equality in Toledo against the Border Patrol's Sandusky office and police in Attica, Willard and Norwalk, claims those agencies have stopped, questioned and sometimes arrested people simply because they were, or looked, Hispanic. In many of the cases, the suit claims, the people were simply approached, questioned and let go -- or arrested, held and released without a charge being filed.

What's the problem, you might ask? Shouldn't our police be looking for what's out of place, because it might indicate something's wrong? And won't we be sorry if someone we decide not to bother simply because we don't have probable cause for suspicion (other than they don't, you know, look like us) later causes harm?

We acknowledge, it's a rough and touchy question. But our answer has to be: Probable cause, the concept from which police powers spring in a supposedly free society, has to be more than "looking different."

So law enforcement in a free society has to be about watching out for what does go wrong, and not just assuming something will because someone is different. It's a difficult attitude to maintain, but we've all spent the last 233 years proving it's worth the effort.

Provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act that are set to expire Dec. 31 should be allowed to expire, and the provision that allows the government to track someone, anyone, without cause, especially should no longer be tolerated in our free society.

Law enforcement at all levels also must be held accountable to police themselves and root out any abuses of the power that has been bestowed on them. There's a right way to be a professional and a wrong way, and, unfortunately, the wrong way too often is tolerated by leaders in the law enforcement community, government officials and the public at large in the name of security.

Certainly we depend on our safety forces to look for what's out of place and determine if something's wrong, but no one should shrink from calling foul when they see that power abused.

To do otherwise would be to attempt to protect America by destroying that which makes America worth protecting.