City Paper is not for tourists
The scoop award goes to DCWatch for staying till the end of Monday’s hearing on police checkpoints. Turns out Chief Cathy Lanier had a specific crime-fighting reason for firing up the old gantlet — which would diminish the murkiness of the Constitutionality of general crime-fighting reasons for checkpoints. DCWatch summarizes:
There was another, more important, reason, she told the committee, but she could not reveal what that reason was. If the committee members knew what she knew, she was confident that they would agree with her actions, but she couldn’t tell them what she knew. She had, she said, specific information that there were specific individuals who were going to enter that neighborhood to commit a particular crime. Preventing that crime was the real reason for quarantining Trinidad. No lesser measures — tracking those specific individuals, warning the intended victims of the crime, etc. — would have sufficed to prevent the crime. Only a full-scale lock down of the neighborhood and lockout of other citizens was enough. But council members would have to take her word for it, because she couldn’t tell them anything more.
Up till now, the reason for the cordon has been explained as a general need to stem gun crime. In fact, Lanier has suggested that if crime returns to Trinidad, the checkpoints will come back too. Still no word from the ACLU on whether a lawsuit is coming.
The Post published a editorial in favor of the checkpoints today. The author includes a quote from neighborhood activist Kathy Henderson who testified at the hearing that debates about civil liberties were “academic.” She said the crime itself was a violation of her civil rights—which to me seems like a conflation of the freedoms we expect from our government and the natural rights (life, liberty, etc.) we expect from fellow members of humanity.
I think it’s a distinction people don’t think about as much these days. And I can see why the difference is hard to articulate. Here’s one way to look at it: I want my government to protect me from crime, but I can’t hold them responsible if I become a victim. For that I have to blame whichever human jerk does something to me. They’ve violated my natural rights. But if the police decide to arrest me without cause — say, throwing all suspicious-looking women on scooters in jail for a day — I may very well have a reason to complain that my civil rights have been violated. Ok. Sorry for the lesson-time.