By Thomas J. Lucente Jr. firstname.lastname@example.org
April 6, 2014
America’s slide into a police state has picked up steam the last few years. The number of civilian government employees carrying guns is at a record high. Even Ohio State University police officers now have an armored military vehicle.
And, of course, prosecutions of police wrongdoing is at a record low.
For example, last year during the hunt for former-police-officer-turned-cop-killer Christopher Dorner, jittery Los Angeles Police Department cops fired 103 rounds into a vehicle — that did not match Dorner’s — at two women — who certainly did not look like Dorner.
That they did not kill the women after firing 103 rounds is a problem beyond the scope of this column. Suffice it to say, some range time might be in order.
What is most troubling is that LAPD officials, after admitting the officers violated the department’s use-of-force policy, failed to fire or even suspend the cops.
But we don’t need to look to the West Coast to find police abusing their power because it is in everyone’s backyard.
Two reporters from The Blade newspaper in Toledo, reporter Tyrel Linkhorn and photographer Jetta Fraser, were detained by Department of the Army police officers outside the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center on March 28.
Linkhorn and Fraser were in Lima covering a Ford Motor Co. news conference. Afterward, they went to take photos of businesses in the area for future use. A common practice in newspapers and television media outlets.
While standing on public property photographing the entrance of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center — an activity that is most likely legal and certainly constitutionally guaranteed — overzealous cops from the tank plant detained the two journalists for at least an hour and seized Fraser’s camera. Fraser was even handcuffed when she refused to show her driver’s license. She was not driving, so therefore, at least in Ohio, she had no requirement to show the cop her license.
The journalists did have media credentials identifying them as Blade journalists.
Finally, police released the pair but seized Fraser’s cameras, telling her that photography of any part of the plant was not permitted. Of course, that is not true. As defenders of the plant, they must certainly have known that.
Indeed, everything Fraser photographed at the tank plant is visible from Buckeye Road and can be seen online using various Google products and on other websites. Additionally, anyone driving down the road can take out a cellphone and photograph the plant without stopping.
Finally, thanks to U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, the camera was returned, but not before government agents destroyed Fraser’s intellectual property and deleted the photos, including ones that did not involve the tank plant.
The problem is the lack of common sense. All too often, police officers are not about the common sense.
Now, you can probably draw a distinction between your run-of-the-mill street cop and federal cops pulling security for a federal installation. The military mentality when it comes to security is fairly extreme and, in some situations, might even be warranted. However, when you are a military cop for a stateside federal installation, you do have to exercise some common sense.
Stopping them for the simple act of taking a photograph was not warranted, given their location. However, even if the officers felt the need to stop them, simply verifying they were journalists with a newspaper should have been enough.
Dave Murray, managing editor of the newspaper, said it best: “The Army does not have the right in this country to detain journalists, handcuff them, seize their cameras and destroy our work product on the whim of an overzealous military police officer.”
Seizing the camera was overkill and deleting the photographs was beyond the pale. On Friday, the newspaper announced it is suing the goverenment. If it doesn’t win a settlement, I will be shocked. The kind of brutish behavior engaged in by these Army police officers has no place in a free society.
When we try to defend freedom by crushing it in the name of security, we have already lost the war. We might as well turn over the reins of government to some Islamic sheik and start learning sharia law.