Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Individual Rights vs. Safety

At what point do we give up our rights, or infringe on the rights of others, in the name of safety? This is not a new argument. It was certainly debated with the Patriot Act. It’s become a local Utah issue as well with the Destiny Norton case.

For those who don’t know, Destiny is a five year old girl who came up missing a few days ago in Utah. This poor girl was missing for several days only to be found in a neighbor’s home last Monday.  

The police were criticized by the Norton family, and many others, for not finding the girl sooner, even though she was a mere 150 feet from the home. One man I listened to even said that, “When the police went to his door and he wouldn’t let them search his home, they should have known there was a problem and gone in anyway!” The family has apologized to the police, but the sentiment is still raging in the minds of many Utahns.

As heartbroken as I am over the loss of this innocent girl, there is a problem here. It’s called the Fourth Amendment.

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.

At the point the police were searching the neighboring homes they had no warrant or probable cause. Some people I’ve talked to have said that, “in cases like this they [the police] should be able to just go in anyway.” As we find more about the suspect, Craig Gregerson, a picture is painted of an anti-social person. Another neighbor to the Nortons said, “The police should be able to investigate people like that. They should have known that he was probably dangerous because he just wasn’t normal.”

That’s when I fell out of my chair. I understand the grief. I understand that grief makes people say weird things they regret later. I’ve done it countless times.  But haven’t we gotten past the notion that we can take police action against someone because they’re “different?”

This is why we have such laws, people. I’m pretty “different” myself. I’m a member of the LDS Church. I like science fiction. I’m a “geek.” I like Jazz music. I hate yard work so my lawn is more brown and dead than green and alive. I prefer to live a quiet, and more private, life. I’m a blogger (the dichotomy is not lost on me, okay?). Does this make me “different” enough to be dangerous? Should my privacy be violated because of it?

If we give credence to such ideas, we are stepping on road that will lead to the loss of the liberties that we, as Americans, claim to cherish.

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