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Who Will Teach Our Police Our Bill of Rights?

October 23, 2013 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

My primary hero of the full existence of the Constitution is George Mason, a Virginia delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Why him? He refused to sign the Constitution because it didn’t have a “declaration of rights” — the individual liberties of American citizens.

Because of George Mason, who was followed by other non-signers, James Madison introduced the Bill of Rights. These first 10 amendments to the Constitution, when ratified by enough states in 1791, guaranteed to We The People specific limits on government power.

In this self-governing republic, the Fourth Amendment in these guarantees clearly states:

“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.”

In last week’s column, I focused on two shocking cases, unknown to most Americans because the media in its various forms ignored them. These cases dealt with public school students who had been “locked down” in mass searches by police and drug-sniffing dogs. The searches were conducted without court warrants or any indication that the students being searched for drugs or drug paraphernalia had any connection at all to these suspicions.

The cases were Burlison v. Springfield Public Schools in Missouri (2013) and Diane Doe v. Renfrow (1981) in Indiana. I concentrated on the astonishing refusal of the Supreme Court to even hear the cases, thereby excluding students from the Constitution. But now I must go on and focus my attention on the police and the media treating all Americans as though they’re barred from the Constitution.

No high court justice dissented in the decision to not hear the Burlison case, but in Doe, there was a tumultuous dissent from Justice William Brennan concerning this. He asked how students could become responsible citizens if their schools ignored their fundamental constitutional freedoms.

Six years later, his mind still turbulently focused on that case, Justice Brennan, during an interview with NPR’s Nina Totenberg, delivered an attack on the media’s too frequent ignorance of the Bill of Rights. He wasn’t just referring to its lack of attention to the Burlison case.

His indictment applies now more than ever. I can’t explain the present-day media’s frequent omission of these very specific safeguards for individual Americans from stories they cover. Perhaps …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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