Pubdate: Sun, 23 Aug 2015
Source: Chico Enterprise-Record (CA)
Copyright: 2015 Chico Enterprise-Record
Note: Letters from newspaper's circulation area receive publishing priority
Author: Leonard Pitts


Here is a challenge for you. Reconcile the following:

In 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified, including the Fourth 
Amendment, guaranteeing "the right of the people to be secure in 
their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable 
searches and seizures."

In 2015, a 21-year-old woman named Charnesia Corley says she 
underwent a public body-cavity search for drugs at a gas station in Texas.

Explain, if you can, how the former and the latter can be simultaneously true.

According to Corley, a sheriff's deputy in Harris County - Houston is 
the county seat - pulled her over for a traffic violation in June. 
Claiming he smelled marijuana, he searched the car, then called a 
female deputy to search Corley.

Corley says the woman told her to pull her pants down. Corley, who 
was handcuffed, says she told the deputy she couldn't and protested 
that she was wearing no panties. Whereupon, according to Corley, the 
deputy pulled the pants down herself and began her search.

Corley told CNN she "popped up" when she felt the woman's fingers 
inside her and protested. Corley says the deputy replied: "I can do 
what I want to do, because this is a narcotics search."

Another female deputy was summoned. Corley found herself on the 
ground with, she says, both women on top of her. And if you were 
looking for the textbook definition of an "unreasonable" search, 
surely you could not find a better one than a bare-bottomed woman 
held down on the pavement in full public view while her vagina is 
forcibly probed for drugs.

The Harris County sheriff has declined comment, citing an "ongoing 
internal affairs investigation" - and a possible civil suit. 
According to at least some reports, deputies did find marijuana - 
0.02 ounces - though it is unclear where. The Associated Press 
reports that charges against Corley - drug possession and resisting 
arrest -were dropped last week.

Apparently, none of this is unique. The Washington Post tells us 
there have been similar cases in Oakland, Chicago, Atlanta, and in 
Citrus County and Coral Springs, Florida. The victims have been both 
male and female.

And so, we reap the fruit of our own short-sightedness. In their 
hysteria over drugs and sanguine surety that only guilty people need 
worry about their rights, too many of us have watched with 
acquiescence the steady erosion of the freedoms that stand between us 
and a police state. The government arrogates unto itself the power to 
seize a person's money without even bringing charges, the Supreme 
Court gives police unfettered power to stop cars on any pretext in 
order to hunt for drugs, police stop and frisk - and cuff and beat - 
without probable cause, and some of us shrug and say, so what?

Well, this is what: Charnesia Corley ends up humiliated and sexually 
assaulted, spread-eagle on the ground with our collective fingers up 
her individual private parts. Apparently, some of us find that less 
terrifying than 0.02 ounces of pot.

It is past time those somnambulant people woke up to what is 
happening here, to what is being stolen. Drugs are a danger, yes. But 
in response to that danger, we have accorded police too much 
deference, leeway and power. That observation is not about 
disrespecting them, but requiring that they respect us, the people 
they work for.

There is, not to put too fine a point on it, zero respect in a 
sheriff's deputy publicly poking her fingers into another woman's 
vagina - on suspicion, mind you, of marijuana possession. How can you 
reconcile that with the Fourth Amendment? You can't.

"I can do what I want to do." So the deputy reportedly told Corley. 
And that should scare you.

Because it wasn't just arrogant. It was also, apparently, correct.
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