One of the common threads about the rise of the warrior cop phenomenon is the frustration with a very serious erosion of Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights. It has always been a paramount part of our society that our police officers wear distinct uniforms, in large part so that you recognize them as officers of the state. When you see out of uniform officers on television at crime scenes, the officers always wear jackets with their id clearly marked in large letters, whether that designation is FBI, ATF or even just POLICE. It is a fundamental principle of our liberty that your words cannot be used against you if you are interrogated without knowing that jeopardy has attached, although the Maryland v. King decision has raised doubts even about that.
During the aftermath of the bombings on April 15, one of the striking things about the thugs stalking through the streets of Watertown is that they were unmarked, and it was virtually impossible to tell who those folks were. But of even greater concern is a phenomenon reported in some of the books coming out this summer about warrior cops–the notion that cops are never off duty, and that no miranda warnings are ever given when the issue is “public safety.” There are a growing number of cases of people who have been convicted of crimes for making statements to cops, who seemed to just be neighbors at a little league game, or people arrested after inviting a neighbor in for dinner–who happened to be a cop. In New Jersey, in the wake of the shootings in Connecticut, the police ran a safety program in schools. Children were asked by the police about how their parents handled gun safety at home, and kids who volunteered answers had that information cross checked on the towns gun permit records and arrests were made for unlawful gun possession based upon interrogation of children in a school program. A week ago, I would have said that the Supreme Court would have howled at that, but after King I’m just not sure.
We’ve had lots of conversation in recent years about the amount of liberty you surrender in order to be secure. Do people really see East Germany as the perfect role model for our society?