Debate Magazine

Good Idea Or Violation of Fourth Amendment?

Posted on the 24 January 2013 by Eowyn @DrEowyn


NYPD Commissioner says department  will begin testing  a new high-tech device that scans for concealed  weapons

NY Post: Get ready for scan-and-frisk. The NYPD will soon deploy new technology allowing police to detect guns  carried by criminals without using the typical pat-down procedure, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Wednesday.

The department just received a machine that reads terahertz — the natural  energy emitted by people and inanimate objects — and allows police to view  concealed weapons from a distance. “If something is obstructing the flow of that radiation, for example a weapon, the device will highlight that object,” Kelly said.

A video image aired at a Police Foundation breakfast Wednesday showed an  officer, clad in a New York Jets jersey and jeans, with the shape of a hidden  gun clearly visible under his clothing when viewed through the device.

The department will begin testing the high-tech device for use on the street. The device is small enough to be placed in a police vehicle or stationed  at a street corner where gunplay has occurred in the past.

Kelly, who first discussed the possibility of using this technology last  year, said the NYPD has been working with the London Metropolitan Police and a  contractor “to develop a tool that meets our requirements.” “We took delivery of it last week,” Kelly said at the gathering at the  Waldorf Astoria. “One of our requirements was that the technology must be  portable.”

“We still have a number of trials to run before we can determine how best to deploy this technology. We’re also talking to our legal staff about this. But we’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made over the past year.”

The New York Civil Liberties Union last year raised concerns about “virtual  pat downs,” and some security experts have said false positives could lead to  unjustified stops.

I’m not sure about this. Seems to me it violates our Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The Fourth Amendment was intended to create a constitutional buffer between U.S. citizens and the intimidating power of law enforcement. It has three components. First, it establishes a privacy interest by recognizing the right of U.S. citizens to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects.” Second, it protects this privacy interest by prohibiting searches and seizures that are “unreasonable” or are not authorized by a warrant based upon probable cause. Third, it states that no warrant may be issued to a law enforcement officer unless that warrant describes with particularity “the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

I thought the TSA scanners violated our Fourth Amendment too yet that didn’t stop the federal government from implementing them anyway.

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