If you’ve ever wondered why organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) exist, you need look no further than an intersection in Aurora, Colo., the latest example of a troubling rise in authoritarianism by adherents to an “us against them” police state mentality.
In a case that stretches the concept of “probable cause” well past the breaking point, officers from the Aurora police department recently stopped every car at a city intersection, hauled out drivers and handcuffed each of them, on suspicion that one of the vehicles may have been hiding suspected bank robbers.
According to ABC News, police were acting on what they described as a “reliable” tip that one or more suspects who had robbed a Wells Fargo bank were stopped at a red light at the intersection.
“We didn’t have a description, didn’t know race or gender or anything, so a split-second decision was made to stop all the cars at that intersection, and search for the armed robber,” Officer Frank Fania said.
So, without any description and without any real idea who they were searching for, police quickly set up barricades, trapping 19 cars and drivers, and in what would no doubt have made a modern Chinese police chief smile, began hauling everyone out of their vehicles in cuffs.
All on a “tip.”
“Cops came in from every direction and just threw their car in front of my car,” Sonya Romero, one of the drivers who was handcuffed, told ABC News affiliate KMGH-TV in Denver.
“Most of the adults were handcuffed, then were told what was going on and were asked for permission to search the car,” said Fania. “They all granted permission, and once nothing was found in their cars, they were un-handcuffed.”
It makes you wonder what would have happened if one or more of the drivers had said no.
Can’t do that in America
Motorists were delayed for nearly two hours. Cops finally did nab a suspect – in the last car searched.
“Once officers got to his car, they found evidence that he was who they were looking for,” Fania said. “When they searched the car, they found two loaded firearms.”
Naturally the actions of the Aurora police have come under criticism. But hey, says Fania, it was a unique situation that called for an equally unique response.
“It’s hard to say what normal is in a situation like this when you haven’t dealt with a situation like this,” said Officer Fania. “The result of the whole ordeal is that it paid off. We have arrested and charged a suspect.”
Translation: Since they nabbed a suspect, who – by the way – has yet to actually be convicted of anything – it’s okay to violate constitutional protections, even though the founding fathers really didn’t put any qualifiers in the Bill of Rights that said something like, “You have to follow these rules unless special circumstances arise, then you can violate them at will.” Stopping cars to see if they are carrying a suspected bank robber is one thing; cuffing drivers who haven’t been arrested is quite another.
Former Judge Andrew Napolitano agrees.
“You can only be stopped if the police can articulate, can state, some suspicion about you and that can only be for a brief period of time,” the Fox News analyst said.
“It wasn’t justified under the federal Constitution, under the federal law, under the Colorado Constitution, or under Colorado law,” he said. “We fought wars against governments who arrested groups of people until they got their person. We don’t do that in America.”
No ‘cheer’ in Myrtle Beach
Fast-forward to Myrtle Beach, S.C., where another outbreak of police-state mentality occurred recently.
A mother, Shannon Cooper, “was handcuffed at the South Florence High School graduation ceremony and charged with disorderly conduct,” CBS/Orlando affiliate WKMG reported.
No, we’re not making this up.
“Are ya’ll serious? Are ya’ll for real? I mean, that’s what I’m thinking in my mind,” Cooper told WPDE in Myrtle Beach.
“I didn’t say anything. I was just, like, ‘OK, I can’t fight the law,'” she added.
School officials had said before the ceremony that anyone who cheered or screamed during the ceremony would be escorted from the school. Nothing was said, apparently, about being arrested for disorderly conduct.
The charge resulted in Cooper being placed in a detention center and having to post a $225 bond. All for being overly enthusiastic about her daughter graduating from high school, a feat that a rising number of American kids don’t accomplish.
Americans need police officers on our streets to keep the anarchy at bay, no doubt, but there are rules – constitutional rules – to follow. Exercising a little common sense wouldn’t hurt, either.
Sources for this article include: