By Mike Walters
Every now and then, a story leaks out from the borders of some despot’s police state about a commando-style raid on an innocent household, police violently tearing through belongings, shouting and throwing children to the ground while waving loaded firearms. It was a blow to Americans, who count themselves lucky not to have to live in a land of insanity and sadistic abuses of police power, to hear that all of this happened on American soil, when police burst into Stratford High School in Goose Creek, S.C., weapons drawn and eager to rough up a few drug dealers. They left that day empty-handed, but what they left behind among hallways littered with emptied lockers and scared students was an injustice that is inexcusable in a country that values freedom, justice and the concept of one being”innocent until proven guilty.”
“I was frightened because they had guns in their hands,” student Maurice Harris told NBC. “I thought one of the guns was going to go off and shoot or kill somebody, so I just got down to my knees and covered my head for protection.”
With bomb threats, school killing sprees and acts of terrorism being real possibilities in the United States, it would be understandable if the police were called in to use extraordinary measures to save the lives of students by stopping a gun-toting student from going on a rampage or setting off a bomb. Instead, the police went in that day throwing students to the ground and handcuffing them because their principal reported a suspicion of drug activity. He based his suspicion on surveillance video of students entering bathrooms and talking secretively and an arrest made the week prior when a student was found with 300 prescription pills on him.
“I don’t think it was an overreaction,” said Lt. Dave Aarons from the Goose Creek police department. “Anytime you have qualified information regarding drugs and large amounts of money, there’s a reasonable assumption weapons are involved.”
In a raid against the Columbian drug cartel, yes, one could expect to arrest professional criminals who may defend themselves against the police with lethal force. But did they have to come in with their guns drawn looking for a 15-year-old with his mom’s bottle of Xanax?
“You absolutely cannot bring police with guns drawn into a school,” said Graham Boyd, director of the drug policy project for the American Civil Liberties Union. Calling the search illegal, he rightly suggested that if certain students were suspected of drug dealing, they should have been quietly called to the principal’s office to have their bags checked for illegal substances. Instead, the police used the excuse to pretend they were U.S. Special Forces, pushing students to the ground, yelling, rummaging through bags and lockers and watching students cower at the sight of guns and barking police dogs.
The fact is police officers work every day to stop crimes and protect the lives of civilians, often at the cost of their own. Like any other profession, they must be held accountable when their actions express incompetence or the use of poor judgment. Unlike other professions, however, they are trusted with the legal ability to use force against other citizens. As such, it is important that they do their jobs well and consistently. On Nov. 5, those members of the South Carolina Police Department failed to live up to that standard. Despite employing rough and invasive tactics against those teenagers, they discovered no evidence of illegal activity and acted upon a poor lead, another fact for which they should be ashamed.
Though students’ lockers are on the government property of a public school, there is no excuse for causelessly breaking into and rummaging through them. Just because an American citizen is under the age of 18, his constitutional rights are still valid, as the Constitution protects every citizen from illegal search and seizure of his private property, particularly the innocent ones. When parents entrust a child to the care of the government to receive an education paid for by their tax dollars, they should be able to expect their kids to be treated with a certain decency and safety by school officials who are supposed to be competent enough to provide these things.
If the United States is going to accuse countries on the other side of the world of ruling by unjust force and tyranny, it’s important that Americans never act like those they call their enemies, or Americans will be no better than those they fight against. From The Battalion
110 years serving Texas A & M University