Day By Day

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Minority Report

A mediocre sci-fi film set in the not too distant future where law enforcement utilizes some mysterious technology to view crimes before they take place and then pre-arrest and convict the perp, preventing the crime, and making the world safe for humans, babies and fuzzy creatures. B movie fare, mildly entertaining, don't need to see it twice commercial pap.

or is it? Apparently not.
To hear them tell it, the five police agencies who apprehended 39-year-old Oregonian David Pyles early on the morning of March 8 thwarted another lone wolf mass murderer. The police "were able to successfully take a potentially volatile male subject into protective custody for a mental evaluation," announced a press release put out by the Medford, Oregon, police department. The subject had recently been placed on administrative leave from his job, was "very disgruntled," and had recently purchased several firearms. "Local Law Enforcement agencies were extremely concerned that the subject was planning retaliation against his employers," the release said. Fortunately, Pyles "voluntarily" turned himself over to police custody, and the legally purchased firearms "were seized for safekeeping."
I bet just about any one of us would have "voluntarily" turned ourselves over. Check out why
This voluntary exchange involved two SWAT teams, police officers from Medford and nearby Roseburg, sheriff's deputies from Jackson and Douglas counties, and the Oregon State Police. Oregon State Police Sgt. Jeff Proulx explained to South Oregon's Mail Tribune why the operation was such a success: "Instead of being reactive, we took a proactive approach."
"We took a positive approach"? I guess the report was in; David Pyles was suspect in a terrible crime no doubt....
There's just one problem: David Pyles hadn't committed any crime, nor was he suspected of having committed one. The police never obtained a warrant for either search or arrest. They never consulted with a judge or mental health professional before sending out the military-style tactical teams to take Pyle in.
They preemptively arrested him, and forced him to submit to a mental health evaluation without due process. That evaluation will follow him for the rest of his life; potentially impacting his ability to obtain a job, credit, professional licenses, firearms etc.  Not only did they bring enough force to take down a gang of bootleggers, but they lied to him as to their intentions.
"They woke me up with a phone call at about 5:50 in the morning," Pyles told me in a phone interview Friday. "I looked out the window and saw the SWAT team pointing their guns at my house. The officer on the phone told me to turn myself in. I told them I would, on three conditions: I would not be handcuffed. I would not be taken off my property. And I would not be forced to get a mental health evaluation. He agreed. The second I stepped outside, they jumped me. Then they handcuffed me, took me off my property, and took me to get a mental health evaluation."
So based on the whim of some law enforcement official of some sort, they deployed a heavily armed mob of police to subdue the potential criminal. They didn't interview him, nor did they interview any of his friends, family or neighbors, they just sprang into action.
By noon the same day, Pyles had already been released from the Rogue Valley Medical Center with a clean bill of mental health. Four days later the Medford Police Department returned Pyle’s guns, despite telling him earlier in the week—falsely—that he'd need to undergo a second background check before he could get them back. On Friday the Medford Police Department put out a second press release, this time announcing that the agency had returned the "disgruntled" worker's guns, and "now considers this matter closed.
For any gun owner this is chilling, the stuff nightmares are made of. The police surround your home, assuming that you're willing to fight, armed to the teeth, snipers, flash bangs all sorts of the usual paramilitary toys we've been arming our police with in concert with the idiotic "war on drugs".

Mr. Pyles is apparently a pretty level headed guy and clearly no danger to anyone. This could have been a disaster, but one that would have been a big story, for a day or two, locally, with perhaps some passing national mention about a disgruntled gun nut the police were "forced" to shoot and kill.

Turning our police into ersatz armies is a bad idea. Every year these swat teams raid and terrify, if not kill, innocent people in the mindless pursuit of telling adults what they can and can't do with their bodies. And when they're not raiding your local suspected druggies they're raiding the local gun nuts.

All on the whim of an unnamed law enforcement official. Mr. Pyles certainly has a case that's likely to force some changes in the way the police treat innocent civilians; and well it should. It's high time that we the people started rolling back the blank check the police have written for themselves and start holding them accountable for their actions. Heads should roll in this case, and more than one.

Read the rest here

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