Doing 55 in a 54

Matt Barganier, July 28, 2009

Kelley Vlahos has a great piece today on the Henry Gates affair and the larger problems of which it’s a symptom. One such problem is the ever increasing number of pretexts on which the authorities can interrogate, search, assault, and arrest citizens. The authority figure, equipped with endless excuses to initiate an interaction with the citizen, from an expired tag to a false burglar alarm to an alleged whiff of what might be a controlled substance, uses his or her superior knowledge of legal arcana to find some way to put the citizen behind bars.  For instance, what struck me when reading the policeman’s account of the Gates incident was a small detail: the repeated use of the term “tumultuous.” It appears three times in the brief report in descriptions of Gates’ behavior. Why was the cop fixated on this SAT word?

Turns out, it appears in the Massachusetts statute defining disorderly conduct. The cop goaded the agitated Gates into stepping outside of his house (he made sure to give a reason for this in the report – poor acoustics in Gates’ kitchen!) to create the grounds for an arrest.  The cop already knew the specific – though vague and debatable – adjective he should use in his report to make the charge sound incontestable to the lawnorder crowd.

The proliferation of new laws in the wake of 9/11, all full of vague and debatable terms, has given the authorities infinite points of entry into all of our lives. They truly can arrest first and read the statutes later; you’re sure to have done something wrong. Even if they eventually drop the charges or fail to convict you, don’t count on getting any compensation for your anxiety, lost time, injuries, or legal fees.

An analogous situation prevails in international affairs, where the global police churn out endless legal pretexts for subjecting whole countries to full body-cavity searches, house arrest, assault, and capital punishment, and we’re watching it play out yet again in the case of Iran. But that’s a post for another day.




26 Responses to “Doing 55 in a 54”

  1. I know many people focus on this as a racial issue. I am glad this article did not. The police have been tought a whole new form of tactics when it come to dealing with the public. They are now supposed to project and image of power and that their authority is not to be questioned. Some of this is common sense, in that the streets that some of these cops patrol is violent to an extreem. However, much of it is also simply the love of power. I have been manhandled or threatend by police on a number of occations. I am always polite but willing to assert my rights. I make it a point to know them (my rights) so I feel more free in exercising them than most people would. In this case I would not have allowed the police to get me outside. Just by stepping outside he found himself in a different legal situtation. This is a common tactic.

  2. Part 2
    If the police come to your door do not allow them to enter and do not go outside. If they had propable cause to enter they wouldn't need to ask. If they had an arrest warrant they would simply arrest you and take you to the station. In this situation he would have been smart to have simply stood in his doorway shown his proof and asked them to leave. As Nancy Reagon Said "Just Say NO!"

  3. 100% agree with BradSmith

  4. Thanks Brad – I've a feeling these pragmatic tips will become increasingly valuable in the future.

  5. [...] source [...]

  6. The ancient Roman historian Tacitus put it this way: "The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws." By that standard, the United States is pretty Goddamn corrupt.

    By its nature, police work attracts authoritarian types, the kind who are psychologically dangerous when armed with authority. Officer Asshole, with his gun and his shield, regards any dissing as a mortal affront to his very being.

    There are two kinds of cop: One stands behind his shield, the other hides behind his. There are too many of the latter bastards.

  7. And don't forget their willing "enablers" such as those private-citizen, SUV driving,numbskulls with the displayed PBA /Law Enforcement gold shields in the front window of their cars which are designed to intimidate others into getting out of their way or for their personal justification for driving drunk.

  8. Dead on the money. We're living in a fascist police state and few recognize the fact or care. We've been conditioned since roughly 1894, when the two-party system ceased to exist. What's it going to take to turn this around?

  9. Total ecomomic collapse followed my State Successions.

  10. The smart-arse approach of the wearers-of-stormtrooper-drag reminds me of something attributed to that vile megalomaniac Richelieu: "give me six lines from the most honest man, and I will find in it something to hang him".

    Our collective response ought to be "show me the contract I signed that said I was prepared to obey you, or fuck off".

    This idea that we are the livestock of the State has got to be put paid to: I don't care how many of these 'we own you' scumbags has to die.

    If it (the required number of political-parasite and Sardaukar deaths) was zero, that would be cool: a move to a voluntaryist structure without bloodshed would be terrific.

    But if it was necessary (to paraphrase Diderot) to bludgeon the last politician to death with the severed arm of the last police sniper, then so be it.

    As our Frog mates say: j'en ai eu assez, et j'en ai rien à foutre.

    Cheerio

    GT

  11. I'm of the definite opinion that the fate of that Romanian bastard Ceaucescu and his secret police cronies should never be forgotten.

  12. Ceaucescu rightly was shot, but it was his cronies (who had turned on him) who did it. Probably they are still in power. Quis custodiet ipsos custodos?

  13. Yer right, Matt.

    And I agree with ya and everything but face it, if you are the typical AmeroConned Sheeple you WANT s big gummymit that will put its arms around you and hug the stuffing outta ya.

    After all, freedom is on the march, it takes a village, yer gummymint loves ya and everything it does is for da childern…..at least that's what our politicians always tell us and the sheeple swallow these lines whole.

    So as the economy and society detiorate further the AmeroCon Sheeple will demand an even bigger police state…

  14. The whole idea of a government owned and controlled police force is only about 150 years old. It's clearly an experiment that's failed.

  15. Allow some prospective on it from Russia…
    Year was 1979 and USSR entered Afganistan – Afgan war started.

    My reaction to that news was “Or, Sh.t”. Then – people that talked in public of course would approve the war. But maybe less then 30% at most would approve it in private talk.

    Now – fast forward to 2003. I see the invasion of Iraq on TV (I lived in the US then) and say “Oh, Sh.t – not again… Not another Empire going down – not another Perestrojka and following “Perestrelka” (“Firefight”)… So, I left.

    BUT – since unlike the USSR in 2003 MOST US people I’ve talked to approved the Iraq war…

    It means that US people are more brainwashed then Russian during the 70s. Being brainwashed does not help much against structural crysis. So – US would rather be following the path of Germany during 30s.

    Which means we’ll eventually get full blown international “perestrelka” with nuclear arms involved.

    Is there anything to be done? No. US people en mass don’t have any historical memory about what is war on their own soil. It is VERY unpleasant. Besides – China will stop sending goods :-)

  16. you’re sure to have done something wrong. Even if they eventually drop the charges or fail to convict you, don’t count on getting any compensation for your anxiety, lost time, injuries, or legal fees.

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