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Was Fourth Amendment compromised in Boston?

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POSTED May 13, 2013 12:03 a.m.


The Bulletin

The blast near the finish line of the Boston Marathon prompted one of the biggest manhunts in American history and drastically altered the day-to-day routine for New England residents for the better part of a week.

But did police and FBI agents go too far when they went door-to-door in the Boston suburb of Watertown searching for the second bombing suspect believed to be hiding in the area?

It depends on who you ask.

American’s civil liberties - and the preservation of them in modern society - were the focal point of a roundtable discussion at a meeting of the Manteca Tea Party Patriots Thursday night at Chez Shari.

And while the details of how the search was carried out were never really disseminated in the media, group co-founder Bruce Lownsbery said that he’d have a problem with police forces showing up at his door to scour his house for somebody even under the circumstances.

Lownsbery - who said that he understood the situation and what was unfolding in the Boston area at the time - took the time to read the Fourth Amendment and focused on how “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the person or things to be seized.”

“They basically declared martial law,” Lownsbery said to a group of about a dozen people that showed up to the meeting. “I think that people overreacted by surrendering their liberties.

“We, as individuals, have the right to protect ourselves and this is an example of surrendering to the government for protection.”

David Marks, however, didn’t agree.

Given the scope of what was unfolding in the area, Marks said, people were more than likely willing to throw their doors open because they didn’t want to be the person who impeded the search for somebody who had carried out such a heinous act.

And if he found himself in a similar position, Marks said that he’d more than likely let the police in because he didn’t have anything to hide.

Plus, Marks said, there’s always the chance that the fugitive is holding a gun to the back of the person answering the door. While Lownsbery said he’s willing to take that “one-in-a-million chance,” Marks said he’d hate to be the one who had to watch the police come to his door and have to wave them off simply because somebody else up the block wanted to take a stand for their rights.

But as Joe DeAngelis pointed out, that’s a slippery slope lined up straight for a world where police can supersede individual liberty simply because “they don’t know” that somebody’s not a criminal.

Since it was surveillance cameras can ended up capturing the images of the two bombers right before the blasts went off, the conversation then shifted into whether public surveillance is something that will soon be coming.

Ripon was the first city in San Joaquin County to employ a widespread wireless camera system aimed at preventing crime, and it has since grown significantly as the small department experiments technological ways to stay ahead the crime curve -  like installing license plate scanners to detect stolen cars and those wanted by police.

Laura Spence, who has worked for a handful of local candidates in their successful bids for reelection, said that the cameras make her feel safe and helps provide a watchful eye where an officer might not be.

“As long as you know that they’re there, I have absolutely no problem with it,” Spence said. “It’s when you start being secretive that you have a problem.”

To contact Jason Campbell, email or call (209) 249-3544.  

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