Pubdate: Mon, 19 Sep 2005
Source: Daily Iowan, The (IA Edu)
Copyright: 2005 The Daily Iowan


On Wednesday, members of the Iowa City community will have a chance to meet 
with their new police chief, Sam Hargadine. One question citizens should 
ask is about the chief's endorsement of the controversial "knock-and-talk" 
police search tactic.

We discourage this policy, as it is detrimental to the community, and 
encourage police techniques that are more straightforward and appropriate 
for Iowa City.

A knock-and-talk search works like this: Police officers go to the door of 
a residence in which they suspect illegal activity is occurring. They 
knock, introduce themselves as a police officer, and ask to come in and 
talk. If the resident says yes, they enter the home and look around for 
signs of drugs or illegal alcohol.

If they see any, they detain the resident(s) in the dwelling while calling 
for a warrant that allow them to legally search for the evidence they saw 
during the visit.

Not only is the technique deceptive, people may be intimidated by a police 
officer's request and may be unaware that they have the right to refuse 
entry. It's troubling that law enforcement in Iowa City feels the need 
adopt such questionable tactics.

It's questionable whether knock-and-talk is constitutional, because the 
Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches of their homes. 
In United States v. Johnson, a federal circuit court ruled that the police 
on a knock-and-talk mission acted inappropriately in entering a home and 
searching for drugs without a warrant.

In that case, the defendant never gave his consent for the officers to 
enter his home, but the police asserted that they saw a crack pipe from the 
doorway (a claim the court ruled was unbelievable). Knock-and-talk searches 
may or may not be constitutional, depending on how carefully officers 
follow the letter of the law, but in any case, they tempt police to make a 
bust by bending the rules.

Worrying about constitutional searches shouldn't just be the domain of 
bleeding-heart liberals.

If a search is ruled by a judge to be unconstitutional, the evidence of the 
search is thrown out - and a criminal may go free. Knock-and-talk is a 

If there is evidence of drug use or drug dealing, then police should obtain 
a warrant.

Police officers are rightfully zealous about protecting communities from 
lawbreakers, but searching and arresting suspects by the book is the best 
way to eliminate crime.

City Manager Steve Atkins told the that knock-and-talk is nothing to worry 
about, because the police most likely will use the technique "judiciously." 
The implication is that only the guilty should be worried about police 
tactics. But all citizens should have a say in how their community is policed.

Knock-and-talk is a bad policy, because it sets up an adversarial 
relationship between citizens and the police.

Instead of encouraging people to support their local police force, 
knock-and-talk creates an atmosphere of fear and distrust.

We hope that UI community can work with the police and that Iowa City 
police will be open and evenhanded in their law-enforcement tactics.

But if a police officer knocks on your door and says he wants to chat, 
remember that you have the right to talk to him on the front porch and shut 
the door.
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MAP posted-by: Elizabeth Wehrman