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“the constitution does not apply”

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The background to this story, in a nutshell, is that Seattle has, for a variety of reasons (including an affordable housing crisis driven by an acute and largely self-inflicted housing shortage) seen an increase in homelessness recently, and this has caused some residents of wealthy, white North Seattle neighborhoods to lose their collective minds to such a degree that the normally cautious, measured Mayor observed, correctly, that they’ve “worked themselves into a paranoid hysteria.”

The next step, for some Magnolia homeowners, was apparently to hire a private security firm to patrol their streets. The results, reported by Erica C. Barnett here, are not surprising:

According to Harris’ account, he was sitting in the car before his shift at the local 76 station, where he’s a longtime employee. (He also works at the Spirit of Magnolia liquor store across the street). Here’s what Harris, whom I reached during his afternoon shift at the 76 station yesterday, says happened next: The security guard approached him and demanded to know what he was doing parked on the street. (Harris says he was parked in a legal, public parking spot with no time limitations). Harris rolled his window up and refused to respond. At that point, Harris says, the security guard opened his door and demanded that Harris get out of the car.

After initially refusing, Harris says, he got out, walked over to the guard’s Hummer, and asked if he could videotape the conversation. He says Toomey told him “Yes.” When he turned on his camera, though, Harris says the security guard slapped the phone out of his hands hard enough to send it under the Hummer, where he knelt to retrieve it. At that point, he says, the guard began pepper-spraying him in the face and chasing him to his car, where Harris says he pinned him up against the door. After Toomey sprayed him again–in Harris’ account, telling him, “You’re going to jail!” Harris continued to confront him, demanding that he call EMS to treat his injuries. Harris says the guard slapped police-style metal handcuffs on him before telling Harris he would “lie to the police and tell them I assaulted him.” When officers arrived, they took statements from both Harris and Toomey, and ultimately decided to let Toomey go.

Harris says he was unable to recover his phone, which he says disappeared from the place it had fallen next to the Hummer. “I think he took it” to make sure no videotaped evidence existed, Harris says.

I’m sure, if they can find it in their busy schedule to comment on the behavior of their hired goons, they’ll insist this isn’t what they intended at all. But let’s look at how the “Magnolia Patrol Association” sells their choice to hire private security firms:

2. The police cannot stop anyone to ask if they live on property, what they are doing, etc. This is a violation of a person’s Constitutional Rights which could open the police or property owner up for a civil suit. The police are not allowed to speak to anyone unless they have a reasonable suspicion that a crime may be afoot. Further, they must be able to articulate this suspicion in clear language. Private security can interact with anyone at any time. Because they do not represent the Government and the Constitution does not apply to private security.

5. Off duty police are expensive. You can have two security officers for almost the same price of one off duty policeman. This means more manpower keeping your property or venue safe for less money.

They’re actually bragging, in a public document, about how they’re hiring constitutionally unconstrained security at bargain-basement prices. Understandably, concern about incipient fascism tend to focus on the Trump phenomenon of late; perhaps we should broaden our range of vision.

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