Perspectives: Some bad news and some good news about the 4th Amendment

OPINION – Concerns about the Fourth Amendment are plentiful in our time. This essential part of the Bill of Rights definitively underscores our natural right to be left alone by government unless it can show specific probable cause that a crime may have been committed.

As a check on government power, the Fourth Amendment has fallen out of fashion at virtually every level.

As Edward Snowden revealed, in the name of national security, each of us is being spied on and tracked as potential criminals. National agencies sweep up every bit of electronic data they can on us without any particular reason to suspect we’ve committed an offense.

Even local law enforcement has been encouraged to conduct warrantless surveillance on our cell phones with the federal government advising them keep it secret.

Law enforcement at all levels is becoming more authoritarian and aggressive in the name of officer safety. Officers in Aurora, Colorado, are being sued after pointing guns at innocent motorists, including children, and handcuffing them while searching for a bank robber in 2012.

Routine warrant service has become an excuse to engage in paramilitary raids with a massive show of force — even when going after nonviolent offenders. Sometimes innocent people can pay a heavy price.

A recent drug raid in Georgia resulted in a 19-month-old child being critically injured when a flash-bang grenade was thrown into the crib where he was sleeping. Neither the suspect that police were looking for nor any drugs were found in the raid.

Even when a show of force isn’t used, municipal code enforcers have inserted themselves into the lives of St. George residents with impunity.

The limits on government power that protect us from arbitrary and abusive actions are being ignored and perverted in ways that dishonor the role of proper government.

So where is the good news?

For me, it was found in a Fourth Amendment panel discussion I moderated in Salt Lake City earlier this week. This public forum was a cooperative effort hosted by Libertas Institute in conjunction with ACLU Utah and the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The panelists included Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and Parker Douglas from the AG’s office, Utah County Sheriff and president of the Utah Sheriff’s Association Jim Tracy, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, the ACLU’s Senior Counsel for its National Center for Justice Kara Dansky, and a longtime SWAT veteran named Chris Gebhardt.

This group of panelists came together to discuss the balance between law enforcement and civil liberties. The questions they considered and discussed were anything but softballs.

They were asked about the role of law enforcement and whether it has changed over time. They examined whether the police are becoming more militarized and why and when forcible entry should and shouldn’t be allowed.

They were questioned as to whether the legislature should restrain police with laws dealing with SWAT, search and seizure, and forcible entry.

The panelists conferred about whether officer safety should ever be prioritized below the safety and well being of those in the home where a warrant is being served.

This is just a small sampling of the issues covered over the course of two hours. As might be expected, there were some points of clear disagreement. There were also some surprising and encouraging perspectives offered in support of Fourth Amendment protections.

Attorney General Sean Reyes made a powerful statement about how when it comes to enforcing the laws of the state, his office wants to do everything in its power to win. However, he stated that it would actually be better to lose than to win by skipping over due process or cutting the corners where solid police work is needed.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill observed that citizens play a key role in shaping the laws that must be enforced. When we allow virtually everything to become a police matter, our prisons and jails fill to capacity.

Gill noted that the top four nations in the world in terms of incarceration are the United States, China, Russia, and Cuba. For the freest country on Earth, we’re keeping some interesting company.

Finally, former SWAT team leader Chris Gebhardt said that the paramilitary raids that go wrong are too often involve not highly-trained SWAT officers, but inadequately trained task force members or patrol officers acting like SWAT. Gebhardt spoke of how de-escalation, in many circumstances, can actually be safer for the police and public alike.

Concerns about our dwindling Fourth Amendment are not falling on deaf ears, but they require greater participation from all of us in our civic duties.

Related posts 

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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  • Secret Police June 19, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    What about the invasive secret church police, the ones watching you, asking your children about you, talking to your neighbors about you, checking your finances and intruding upon every aspect of your life in an attempt to have the church completely control you and everyone else?

    • benlwilson June 19, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      This is a dumb comment. You must care way too much about what others think about you. I am LDS, but I could care less what my bishop, and other church leaders think about me. But more to the point. The LDS church does not attempt to control me and everything I do, and they definitely don’t intrude upon every aspect of my life. Are my church leaders watching me, talking to my children about me, talking to my neighbors about me? They might be. If they are, it may be because they care. However, it could be because they want to control every aspect of my life, though I think that is doubtful. Either way I don’t care because unlike the state, they cannot take away my liberties. Are they checking my finances? No. Do they ask me if I pay a full tithe? Yes. Does it bother me that they ask? No. The point is, I have a faith that I believe in and I try to live it. Sometimes I don’t do a very good job of living it, and if others are judging me because I don’t do a good job of living it, then good for them. The fact is I try. I don’t care what others think of my efforts. I also could care less what people and leaders of other faiths do or don’t do. If you have a faith you believe in, then perhaps you should do your best to just live it (knowing that your best is not perfection), and not worry so much about what others are saying and thinking. As far as all the other faiths out there that you don’t believe in, who cares what they are or are not doing?

      • Zeke June 19, 2014 at 5:21 pm

        Ben, Ben, Ben, “don’t feed the trolls”

        • benlwilson June 20, 2014 at 12:18 pm

          Zeke, thak’s for the advice.

      • SECRET POLICE June 19, 2014 at 5:36 pm

        I think a person should just strive to be a good person, not strive to do what a religion dictates. Just going through the motions of doing what a religion tells you does not make you a good person. The many corrupted government and business people within your state are proof of that. Despite their criminal acts against other people, some who are of the same religion, they probably have good and upper standings with the church. Probably use that standing with church to keep out of jail.

        • benlwilson June 20, 2014 at 12:37 pm

          Secret Police: You are not a troll, are you? Please don’t take offense to Zeke’s comment. Anyway, who said anything about striving to do what a religion dictates, and about just going through the motions. Your inference that some people go through the motions in regards to their religion is spot on. However, some people go through motions in regard to most areas of their life. Anyway, I think we agree on one thing. A person should just strive to do his or her best in whatever they believe is right. If one does not believe in religion or have a particular faith then he or she should just do the best they can at being a good person according to their own conscience. If that is what you believe then good for you. I believe in the LDS faith. That does not make me better or worse than you. If you believe in another faith, the same faith, or no faith at all that does not make you better or worse than me. I have my reasons for what I believe, just like I am sure you have your reasons for what you believe. However, I still think your first comment was dumb. It makes me wonder how secure you are in your own belief system. If you are completely secure in what you believe, then why did you feel the need to make a negative inference about the LDS church?

  • Really? June 19, 2014 at 9:39 pm See I can find story’s about bad tea party Radio Hosts. This is all Brian does is surf the internet. I also found one out of Texas where a conservative radio host was caught molesting a 11 year old boy. Does this mean the Brian is like either one of these guys? No it does not. Maybe he should take more care his writing. Two Officers were gunned down by two government hating Murderers two weeks ago in Las Vegas. How much responsibility do some of these outspoken government hating public figures take when they influence this type of action, NONE.

  • rdunski93 June 19, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    Lol funny how everyone who doesnt like the lds church always has to bring it up and blame everything on the church. I have been a member for over thirty years and have never had any of what secret police talked about. Just an ignorant man trying to cause contention.

    • Jackmerrius Tacktherateicks June 20, 2014 at 6:29 am

      we as individuals do more to undermine our ow. rights than any government or organization could ever think about doing .

      People don’t care about privacy. …* there are people who trade their 4th
      amendment rights to companies like Google and AT&T for free phones and software.

      There are people who pay other people money to be careless with their private data.

      On top of this there are government loving wing nuts who need the government and other peoples money to help them ‘live’ their lives. They whine and cry about people who work hard and make a lot of money. These are the same wing nuts who say people should be ‘careful about what they write’ because somehow, in the feeble mind of a liberal, everyone is responsible for something that happens in their lives…except for themselves.

      When the government removes the requirement for a person to take care of themselves, they sit around eating their government cheese sandwiches so bored that they have to go find out what other people are doing so they have something to do….something to talk about with other government cheese eating people who are also bored because they too are addicted to government.

      Government takes decent people and turns them into miserable, grumpy , group-thinking addicts that are hell bent on making everyone just as miserable and bored as they are.

      When enough bored and miserable cheese eating people gather in large enough numbers, they will find, as a large group, the gumption to do things to try and turn other hard working people into bored-miserable-grumps….like teaching. Illegals how to vote…..early and often,,,,in the same daye. Or how to abuse the they safety net of Gummint which has no business being called a ‘net ‘ anymore. It has turned into a 1km squared sleep number mattress that has servants who will steal money from the hard working poor and middle class , bring you endless amountss of cheese and pillows as you lay in the safety sleep number bed of the government’ those servants are called the DNC.

      They will provide you all the time you need to poke your bored, mosey pie hole into the lives of these who don’t have any spare time …..because they are working….so you can complain. complain about you deserve more free stuff than what you are getting from the Gummint at present, irrespective to the fact that you are the recipient of stolen property. Your lifestyle is paid for by those you despise the most: the 175 million Americans who pay federal income taxess, AND payroll takes AND state taxes, AND SS TAXES AND MEDICARE TAXES. You despise them not because they chose to want to work…even if 45 percent of their day is spent working to pay for you to sit on your cheese fed keister at home, checking the mailbox for what you believe is a deserved reward every 2 weeks, as you answer 10 questions…at least 3 untruthfully, every week in the internet.

      You despise them because in spite of the fact that they spend more time away from their homes and their families during awake hours, they will not subscribe to living life,,,,as a slave. You are the slave, Lib. Though your day is not burdened with tasking, you will never know what it’s like to be responsible for your own existence. Never know urgency or stress or challenges… the strife that provides people opportuniti to be tested. Pass or fail, once the test has been taken, knowledge is gained and you progress to be better apt to handle the next challenge. You become a person. Your knowledge experience and skills can be passed on to others.

      Even if this kind of person, the tax paying kind or person, is unsuccessful in every challenge life brings, he will still be happier smarter, experienced and practical knowledgable than the most affluent person in the non tax paying yet happy to be a tax burdening half of America. Freedom todo for yourself. Freedom to do better if good isn’t enligh to get the job don’t. Freedom from the mindset that mediocrity means effort in so longer needed, because mediocrity is enough.!

      Mediocrity is only enough for those who volunteer….to be slaves
      That’s right, slaves. Bit unlike slaves in the early beginnings of this country, today’s slaves choose live in slave quarters. They choose to shackle themselves and submit their will to the Master that is Big Government, They know they are free to leave the plantation any time they choose, yet they stay.

      That…is the perfect recipe for creating a wholly hateful person, who just cannot stand that others would choose a ‘harder’ life of productivity and long days at work. Why do they seem so happy….working all day for a pittance….half of which goes to Master so his slaves can eat cheese. Plantation life consists of rer runs of Gillian’s island, a few hours screaming at the television when tuned to Fox News. Then when the work day is done for the rest of America…going to your neighbors house and telling them how stupid they are for working so hard. Yet receiving so little. How can they choose such a life of labor and be so content and happy, while life in the plantation is somewhat event free. Hang out Nd do nothing. Never try to bee a better slave than your neighbor slave in the slave quarters next door, Never A hurry for anything, never ‘need’ to go anywhere or be somewhere at a certain time, just sitting , eating cheese, voting early and often when the Master is up for r election but that really all.

      Why makes them such free people? Why do they enjoy themselves? How can they be so content to work to hard? Surely slaves Deserve to be happy too. but why aren’t they? Why are those who choose the Philosophy of Slavery under the thumb of the Big Leftwing Government not happy getting free stuff earned by others, but given to them for answering those weekly questions on the internet?


      People who live life with purpose, many living for something greater than themselves, are better people, smarter people. Evolved people due to being forged by the hardship of taking responsibility for your own existence,

      Anyone who is loving life devoid or purpose, doesn’t know what that’s like. Needing to do something, having to be somewhere or holding the responsibility for the success of others who choose not to be slaves.

      Slaves that moan all day, grumpy, breath smells like cheese, always complaining and yelling at the TV when Fox News is on.

      You see, after the Republicans freed the Slaves, Democrats were at a complete loss,. without indentured servitude, how would they retain a voter base? That when something very strange and very rare happened,

      A liberal was born with brains in his head instead of the usual rubber dog **** that usually produces the mindless drivel of a Lib. This special lib, realized that slavery is on,y agains t the law if slaves are forced, impressed, or taken because they are black, which at time was fine for democrats because they liked those white sheets. he put fort the idea, that shaves be voluntary, could be any color, and they wouldn’t even need to work on the plantation.

      They devised a plan to get elected to office, vilify the rich, create laws that poverty must eradicate, and due to the seriousness of the epidemic of poverty, people need to give half their earnings to take care of those. Who can’t work. ,don’t work….uhhh…..won’t. Work.

      Democrats would distribute that money in the name of the Government and peace and. All you have to do to qualify for this free money… leave your job, give up any dream if wanting something better, going somewhere new, saving buy something special, owning niece things…..but you will have something’s, Like cheese for instance. And All the time you used to spend working and hustling, and meeting and planning and interacting….will now be free for you to………nothing.

      And that, my friends is the history of the world wrapped in the philosophy of a happy, busy person.

      Have a great day AmeriCANs
      Slaves have a……day. One like yesterday, one like tomorrow will be, just a day.
      Ed. ellipsis: …*

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