due process

Jul 042013

This case is an interesting example of how the SLPD does business.  And I think it brings up a good question

Is it OK for the SLPD to “fib” and break the law, in order to enforce the law?  In other words, should the ends justify the means?

In this case, the police was apparently told of several incidents in which people had car trouble after parking at Washington Plaza, and were approached by a man wearing overalls who offered to fix the trouble for them for money.  The victims suspected, with good reason, that the guy was causing the troubles himself.

Bicycle police officer Brian Buss starts looking for the guy, and yesterday, around 10:30 AM, he spots him.  But what can he do?  Much to his chagrin, the Bill of Rights has not been totally suspended so he can’t just arrest him, or even search him for looking suspicious.    So, instead, he decides that the man is “drunk in public” and arrests him for that.  He searches him, and finds a wrench and a bolt.  A couple of hours later a tow truck comes into the parking lot, and Buss apparently was able to confirm that the bolt the man allegedly had been removed from the car in question.

Seems pretty straight forward.  But it seems awfully convenient that the suspect was “drunk” in public at 10:30 AM on a weekday.  And not only drunk, but that he was unable to exercise care for his safety or that of others or that he was interfering with the free use of a public way.  You would think that if he was drunk enough to actually be in violation of public intoxication laws, his former victims would not have fallen for the scam in the first place.

So let’s assume that the cop made it up. He needed an excuse to search this man, and this one was the easiest.  Is it OK?  He caught the criminal, after all.  It’s not at all clear that the charges will stand – a judge reading the press release is likely to see the arrest as a false one, and thus any evidence that came from it could not be entered in court -, but the guy probably got a big scare and won’t do it again.  They didn’t mention his name on the press release this time, so they won’t get sued for libel.

What do you guys think, it’s OK for the police to ignore constitutional guarantees of due process, if it gets them the bad guys?  Comment here on in facebook.