Boston's 'Safe Homes' Initiative Isn't About Safety
When the government wants to take away our rights, it conceals its intent with the assurance that it simply wants to make us safe. The Boston Police Department's "Safe Homes Initiative" sounds unobjectionable -- who doesn't want a safe home? -- but it's important to look behind the marketing to understand what's really motivating the Boston police.
On the surface —- as with virtually all government actions diminishing liberty —- the initiative appears benign. The program is “designed” to help parents who have so little control over their children that they cannot —- or do not want to —- search their rooms to discover if their young charges are hiding firearms in their homes. Boston’s police chief, Edward Davis, graciously has agreed to fill this parental void by sending teams of officers to the homes of parents with children the police or other “community members” believe might be harboring hidden firearms. The “search teams” would then ask the parent or “other responsible adult” (whomever that might be) at the home for consent to search for guns.
What's the problem with "asking" for consent to search entire homes on the basis of unfounded rumors? Bob Barr explains:
First, of course, is the fact that three police officers showing up on your doorstep makes it very difficult for a parent or “other responsible adult” to say no when asked to consent to a search. This works a serious injustice to the notion that a person’s home is and should remain free from government searches absent a warrant based on probable cause that a crime has been committed.
The police are unlikely to seek limited consent to search just the child's room. Having gained access to the home, officers are likely to search anywhere they please, and are unlikely to confine the object of the search to weapons.
And while the police in Boston promise they will not “automatically notify schools or public housing” authorities if firearms have been found, they will not rule out notifying them. This could lead to families being evicted from public housing (even if the firearm was in the home for personal protection) or to children being expelled from school —- both results hardly designed to improve the quality of life or education of persons living in the poorer neighborhoods targeted by this initiative.
Barr's bottom line gets it just right: if the police have probable cause to believe that a home contains evidence of a crime, they should get a warrant.
But to go through this charade of searching without securing warrants, under the guise of obtaining “consent” of persons who may or may not be the parents of a child, under the transparently false premise that nothing will happen to them if they refuse or if something unlawful is found, is unfair and constitutionally deficient.
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