Saturday, March 27, 2010

Life Imitates Art - Minority Report in Oregon?

Pre-Crime Policing
Allegedly “disgruntled” man has his guns seized, and “voluntarily” surrenders to two SWAT teams and dozens of police officers for a crime that hadn’t been committed

To hear them tell it, the five police agencies who apprehended 39-year-old Oregonian David Pyles early on the morning of March 8 thwarted another lone wolf mass murderer. The police "were able to successfully take a potentially volatile male subject into protective custody for a mental evaluation," announced a press
release
put out by the Medford, Oregon, police department. The subject had recently been placed on administrative leave from his job, was "very disgruntled," and had recently purchased several firearms. "Local Law Enforcement agencies were extremely concerned that the subject was planning retaliation against his employers," the release said. Fortunately, Pyles "voluntarily" turned himself over to police custody, and the legally purchased firearms "were seized for safekeeping."

This voluntary exchange involved two SWAT teams, police officers from Medford and nearby Roseburg, sheriff's deputies from Jackson and Douglas counties, and the Oregon State Police. Oregon State Police Sgt. Jeff Proulx explained to South Oregon's Mail Tribune why the operation was such a success: "Instead of being reactive, we took a proactive approach."

There's just one problem: David Pyles hadn't committed any crime, nor was he suspected of having committed one. The police never obtained a warrant for either search or arrest. They never consulted with a judge or mental health professional before sending out the military-style tactical teams to take Pyle in.

/snip

If what happened to Pyles is legal, in Oregon or elsewhere, we need to take a second look at the civil commitment power. Even setting aside the SWAT team overkill in Medford, there's something awfully discomfiting about granting government authorities the power to yank someone from their home and drag them in for a mental health evaluation based on a series of actions that were perfectly legal, especially with no prior oversight from a judge, or guidance from a psychiatrist.

"The idea that Pyles turned himself in voluntarily is ridiculous," says Starrett, the gun rights activist. "There's nothing voluntary about waking up to a SWAT team outside your home, then having a police negotiator call and suggest you surrender. They had no arrest warrant. But Pyles only had one option. If he didn't come out on his own, they were going to come in to get him."

Read the rest at Reason.

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