The Abuses of Militarized Police

A story has come from Nevada of a lawsuit that was filed on July 1st, 2013. It contends the Henderson, NV, police violated the 3rd Amendment rights of a man and his parents.

Amendment 3 – Quartering of Soldiers

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

The issue in this complaint against the Henderson PD is that “militarized” police, i.e., their SWAT organization, seized the home of a man against his wishes. When the SWAT police didn’t get permission to enter, they broke in the door, assaulted him, arrested him and took him off to jail. They subsequently, using a subterfuge, did the same with his parents who lived in another, nearby residence. The following day all charges were dropped. Clearly the arrest was a ploy to remove the man from his home and his parents from their home against their protests.

You can read the complaint of the lawsuit here.

Henderson [Nevada] police arrested a family for refusing to let officers use their homes as lookouts for a domestic violence investigation of their neighbors, the family claims in court.

Anthony Mitchell and his parents Michael and Linda Mitchell sued the City of Henderson, its Police Chief Jutta Chambers, Officers Garret Poiner, Ronald Feola, Ramona Walls, Angela Walker, and Christopher Worley, and City of North Las Vegas and its Police Chief Joseph Chronister, in Federal Court….

The Mitchell family’s claim includes Third Amendment violations, a rare claim in the United States….

“On the morning of July 10th, 2011, officers from the Henderson Police Department responded to a domestic violence call at a neighbor’s residence,” the Mitchells say in the complaint.

It continues: “At 10:45 a.m. defendant Officer Christopher Worley (HPD) contacted plaintiff Anthony Mitchell via his telephone. Worley told plaintiff that police needed to occupy his home in order to gain a ‘tactical advantage’ against the occupant of the neighboring house. Anthony Mitchell told the officer that he did not want to become involved and that he did not want police to enter his residence. Although Worley continued to insist that plaintiff should leave his residence, plaintiff clearly explained that he did not intend to leave his home or to allow police to occupy his home. Worley then ended the phone call.

Mitchell claims that defendant officers, including Cawthorn and Worley and Sgt. Michael Waller then “conspired among themselves to force Anthony Mitchell out of his residence and to occupy his home for their own use.”

The complaint continues: “Defendant Officer David Cawthorn outlined the defendants’ plan in his official report: ‘It was determined to move to 367 Evening Side and attempt to contact Mitchell. If Mitchell answered the door he would be asked to leave. If he refused to leave he would be arrested for Obstructing a Police Officer. If Mitchell refused to answer the door, force entry would be made and Mitchell would be arrested.’”

It continues: “The officers banged forcefully on the door and loudly commanded Anthony Mitchell to open the door to his residence.

“Surprised and perturbed, plaintiff Anthony Mitchell immediately called his mother (plaintiff Linda Mitchell) on the phone, exclaiming to her that the police were beating on his front door.

“Seconds later, officers, including Officer Rockwell, smashed open plaintiff Anthony Mitchell’s front door with a metal ram as plaintiff stood in his living room.

“As plaintiff Anthony Mitchell stood in shock, the officers aimed their weapons at Anthony Mitchell and shouted obscenities at him and ordered him to lie down on the floor….

“Although plaintiff Anthony Mitchell was lying motionless on the ground and posed no threat, officers, including Officer David Cawthorn, then fired multiple ‘pepperball’ rounds at plaintiff as he lay defenseless on the floor of his living room. Anthony Mitchell was struck at least three times by shots fired from close range, injuring him and causing him severe pain….”

Officers then arrested him for obstructing a police officer, searched the house and moved furniture without his permission and set up a place in his home for a lookout, Mitchell says in the complaint. — The Volokh Conspiracy.

If you read the complaint, you’ll note the Henderson Police also violated their 4th Amendment rights as well by searching both homes without warrants nor any probable cause.

Amendment 4 – Search and Seizure

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The police searched, ransacked the house, for what reason?

When plaintiff Linda Mitchell returned to her home, the cabinets and closet doors throughout the house had been left open and their contents moved about. Water had been consumed from their water dispenser. Even the refrigerator door had been left ajar and mustard and mayonnaise had been left on their kitchen floor.” — Courthouse News.

The Mitchells, son and parents, had broken no law. They were not the subject of the domestic dispute—that was their neighbor. So what justification did the police have for their actions other than they could? From what a number of legal professional have determined, none. There was no justification.

The crux of this suit is whether militarized police constitutes “soldiers” within the definition of the 3rd Amendment. They are agents of the state, as are soldiers. Many will say SWAT police are soldiers if you use the “walks like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it is a duck” logic.

Although it’s not well known, there is a history of US military forces violating the 3rd Amendment. That last such occurance was during WW II.

During World War II, after Japan attacked the Aleutian Islands off Alaska’s coast, the United States forcibly evacuated the islands’ natives and quartered soldiers in private homes. That hitherto unremarked violation of the Third Amendment gives us a fresh perspective on what “Property” means in the U.S. Constitution. As a general legal matter, property includes not just real estate – land, fixtures attached thereto, and related rights – but also various kinds of personal property, ranging from tangibles such as books to intangibles such as causes of action. That knowledge would, if we interpreted the Constitution as we do other legal documents, tell us just about everything we need to know about the scope of constitutional property. Case law and commentary do not speak as plainly, however, raising troubling questions about what “Property” means each of the four times it appears in the Constitution. In particular, some authority suggests that the Takings Clause protects personal property less completely than it does real property. The unjust treatment of Aleutian natives during World War II shows the risk of giving constitutional property so peculiar and narrow a definition. This paper describes the troubling inconsistencies that afflict the law of constitutional property and invokes the Third Amendment, that oft-forgotten relic of the American Revolution, to argue for giving “Property” a plain, generous, and consistent meaning throughout Constitution. — The Volokh Conspiracy.

The issue above is, that while troops “may” be quartered in private homes during wartime, the act must follow specific law. In other words, Congress must pass specific legislation that clarifies the circumstances when the 3rd Amendment doesn’t apply, compensation to the owners for damage, and the legal procedures to enact the seizure. That clarifying legislation has never been passed making the acts during WW II illegal.

The event in Henderson, NV in 2011 doesn’t have the quasi-justification of occurring during war. That is, if the Henderson PD does not consider themselves at war with the residents of Henderson.

The abuses of militarized police are growing across the country. It is a manifestation of a growing police state that has been actively encouraged by the federal government.

Whether our front door is kicked in by a group of lawless thugs, or by armed and armored SWAT troops acting like lawless thugs, it is still a violation of our castle. Theoretically, we could be justified in resisting under the auspices of castle laws. Of course, it wouldn’t matter when the SWAT team kills us. We’re still just as dead. And…the SWAT team would likely get off without charges.

It does beg the question. Can people defend themselves against police when it is the police who are violating the law? That is something for our Legislatures to address.

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