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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/27/17

Death at Your Door: Knock-and-Talk Police Tactics Rip a Hole in the Constitution

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"It's 4 in the morning, there's headlights that are shining into your house; there's a number of different officers that are now on the premises; they're wearing tactical gear; they have weapons; and they approach your front door. Do you think that the ordinary citizen in that situation feels that they have an obligation to comply?"-- Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein

It's 1:30 a.m., a time when most people are asleep.

Your neighborhood is in darkness, except for a few street lamps. Someone--he doesn't identify himself and the voice isn't familiar--is pounding on your front door, demanding that you open up. Your heart begins racing. Your stomach is tied in knots. The adrenaline is pumping through you. You fear that it's an intruder or worse. You not only fear for your life, but the lives of your loved ones.

The aggressive pounding continues, becoming more jarring with every passing second. Desperate to protect yourself and your loved ones from whatever threat awaits on the other side of that door, you scramble to lay hold of something--anything--that you might use in self-defense. It might be a flashlight, a baseball bat, or that licensed and registered gun you thought you'd never need. You brace for the confrontation, a shaky grip on your weapon, and approach the door cautiously. The pounding continues.

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You open the door to find a shadowy figure aiming a gun in your direction. Immediately, you back up and retreat further into your apartment. At the same time, the intruder opens fire, sending a hail of bullets in your direction. Three of the bullets make contact. You die without ever raising your weapon or firing your gun in self-defense. In your final moments, you get a good look at your assailant: it's the police.

This is what passes for "knock-and-talk" policing in the American police state.

"Knock-and-shoot" policing might be more accurate, however.

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Whatever you call it, this aggressive, excessive police tactic has become a thinly veiled, warrantless exercise by which citizens are coerced and intimidated into "talking" with heavily armed police who "knock" on their doors in the middle of the night.

Poor Andrew Scott didn't even get a chance to say no to such a heavy-handed request before he was gunned down by police in a scenario almost exactly like the one described above.

It was late on a Saturday night--so late that it was technically Sunday morning--and 26-year-old Scott was at home with his girlfriend playing video games when police, in pursuit of a speeding motorcyclist, arrived at Scott's apartment complex, assumed tactical positions with guns drawn and ready to shoot, and began pounding on his apartment door (because it had a light on and there was a motorcycle parked nearby).

Understandably alarmed by the aggressive pounding on his door at such a late hour, Scott retrieved his handgun before opening the door. Upon opening the door, Scott saw a shadowy figure holding a gun outside his door.

Police failed to identify themselves.

Unnerved by the sight of the gunman, Scott retreated into his apartment only to have police immediately open fire on him. Of the six shots fired, three hit and killed Scott, who had no connection to the motorcycle or any illegal activity.

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So who was at fault here?

Was it Andrew Scott, who was prepared to defend himself and his girlfriend against a possible late-night intruder?

Was it the police officers who banged on the wrong door in the middle of the night, failed to identify themselves, and then--without asking any questions or attempting to de-escalate the situation--shot and killed an innocent man?

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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and (more...)
 

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