Friday, July 24, 2020

My Perfect Minivan Ride, With the Gestapo

My Perfect Minivan Ride, With the Gestapo

Portland Oregon seems an unlikely place for the inauguration of a Fascist Police Force in America, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that the unlikely is likely.  When I first heard about the famous minivan abduction I was puzzled.  Why would the police read someone the Miranda warnings, and then just let them go?  What was he suspected of?

The short video that went viral was not much help either.  It took more than a moment for me to ignore the voice pleading with the officers to "use your words".  What was that about? A kindergarten teacher too terrified to return to class, yet comfortable attending a protest cum riot?  Who talks that way?

But that is not the point, I suppose.  The point is that the officers came up wordlessly, and took a man away, in a minivan, without, as many commenters pointed out, a warrant.

A warrant is not necessary to make an arrest, Probable Cause is, so my first suspicion was that he had been observed vandalizing something, or assaulting someone.  But that isn't what happened.  Apparently he was seen standing near someone who may have shined a laser in an Officer's eyes, and was wanted for questioning.  The officers took him away in the minivan because of the growing crowd, which made it impossible for them to speak to him on the street.

I hope there were more people there than "use your words" lady, because annoying as she was, she did not sound like a threat.

Let's be clear: there is no riot exception to the requirement that Probable Cause exist before an arrest can be made.  There is also no question but that being taken off the street by armed government agents is an arrest, contrary to whatever claims were made. The officers were wrong.

In the 80s the "Preppy Handbook" came out.  It  told you how to wear Penny Loafers and Polo shirts, what names and hairstyles were Preppy and so on.  It was followed by a slew of other handbooks, including "The Lawyer's Handbook".  I think I lost my copy, but I remember it had a section on different kinds of arguments you could make, depending on how much you were paid.  The most expensive one was the "bolt from the blue", which meant you could say anything at all, unless you were immediately struck down by the eponymous bolt.

Arguing that there should be a sort of riot extension to the Terry Stop requirements might not be that bad, but it is close.  Maybe the correct question is if the Judge would just yell at you from the bench, or would ask you to join him in chambers, so he could yell at greater length?

Speaking of Lawyers, can you imagine the one who came in to the office where they were questioning this fellow?  After hearing the tale of how he came to be there I suppose the officers heard: "Ok.  Now you will tell him he is free to go, and walk him to the door."

That said, it is also not exactly the sort of thing the Gestapo were feared for.  The problem was not that they would grab people off the street and release them an hour later, it was that they would grab people off the street, take them to an office somewhere, and then shoot them in the head, or trundle them off to a concentration camp. 

Now do you get the title?  I am falling between two chairs, the reflexively pro and reflexively anti-Trump.  I can't possibly get behind the notion that the deployment and actions of the Feds in Portland was "perfect", because, well, they clearly weren't.  At the very least some more training needs to be given to these officers so they stop coming up with creative ways of dealing with the difficulty of conducting street interviews during unrest. 

Should the officers wear better identification?  Sure.  Is it frightening that they are in military style camouflage?  Yes.  Am I disappointed in the way things are going in this country?  Of course.

And yet.


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