Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Chris Hedges, TruthOut
As in most police states, cops serve as judge and jury on city streets—“a long step down the totalitarian path,” in the words that U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote in 1968 when he decried expanding police powers. And police departments are bolstered by an internal surveillance and security apparatus that has eradicated privacy and dwarfed the intrusion into personal lives by police states of the past, including East Germany.
Under a series of Supreme Court rulings we have lost the rights to protect ourselves from random searches, home invasions, warrantless wiretapping and eavesdropping and physical abuse. Police units in poor neighborhoods function as armed gangs. The pressure to meet departmental arrest quotas—the prerequisite for lavish federal aid in the “war on drugs”—results in police routinely seizing people at will and charging them with a laundry list of crimes, often without just cause. Because many of these crimes carry long mandatory sentences it is easy to intimidate defendants into “pleading out” on lesser offenses. The police and the defendants know that the collapsed court system, in which the poor get only a few minutes with a public attorney, means there is little chance the abused can challenge the system. And there is also a large pool of willing informants who, to reduce their own sentences, will tell a court anything demanded of them by the police.