Mark Steyn: Better not to tense up around police
By MARK STEYN / Syndicated columnist
At a time when over 4 million people have had their health insurance cancelled, it’s good to know that some Americans can still access prompt medical treatment, even if they don’t want it. David Eckert was pulled over by police in Deming, New Mexico, for failing to come to a complete halt at a stop sign in the Walmart parking lot. He was asked to step out of the vehicle and waited on the sidewalk. Officers decided that they didn’t like the tight clench of his buttocks, a subject on which New Mexico’s constabulary is apparently expert, and determined that it was because he had illegal drugs secreted therein. So they arrested him, and took him to Gila Regional Medical Center in neighboring Hidalgo County, where Mr. Eckert was forced to undergo two abdominal X-rays, two rectal probes, three enemas, and defecate thrice in front of medical staff and representatives of two law enforcement agencies, before being sedated and subjected to a colonoscopy – all procedures performed against his will.
Alas, Mr. Eckert’s body proved to be a drug-free zone, and so, after 12 hours of detention, he was released. If you’re wondering where his lawyer was during all this, no attorney was present, as police had not charged Mr. Eckert with anything, so they’re apparently free to frolic and gambol up his rectum to their hearts’ content. Deming Police Chief Brandon Gigante says his officers did everything “by the book.” That’s the problem, in New Mexico and beyond: “the book.”
Getting into the spirit of things, Gila Regional Medical Center subsequently sent Mr. Eckert a bill for $6,000. It appears he had one of what the president calls those “bad apple” plans that doesn’t cover anal rape. Doubtless, under the new regime, Obamacare navigators will be happy to take a trip up your northwest passage free of charge. That’s what it is, by the way: anal rape. The euphemisms with which the state dignifies the process – “cavity search” – are distinctions that exist only in the mind of the perpetrator, not the fellow on the receiving end. Fleet Street’s Daily Mail reports that this is at least the second anal fishing expedition mounted by local authorities. Timothy Young underwent a similar experience after being fingered by the same police dog, Leo, who may not be very good at sniffing drugs but certainly has an eye for a pert bottom. At the time of Mr. Young’s arrest, Leo’s police license had reportedly expired a year-and-a-half earlier, but why get hung up on technicalities?
Messrs Eckert and Young may yet win their cases. But one notes that the Supreme Court has dramatically circumscribed Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure when it occurs at America’s border, and, post-9/11, the “border” has been redefined to mean anywhere within 100 miles of the actual frontier. Many European countries are not 100 miles wide in their entirety. A hundred-mile buffer zone from Belgium’s northern border, for example, would be well south of the southern border and deep into France. But Deming falls within the 100-mile Fourth Amendment-free zone, and so, I note, between the seacoast and the Quebec border, does the whole of my own state of New Hampshire. It would be prudent, perhaps, for Granite Staters to affect a loose-buttocked saunter when strolling around the White Mountains.
Of course, even with millions of canceled health care policies freeing up medical staff, it is unlikely that the authorities could ever give the full Deming PD treatment to the bulk of the populace. Perhaps that’s why Americans do not seem to get terribly exercised by these cases. There are more than 300 million people, and the chances of Leo taking a fancy to one’s own posterior are relatively remote. Yet, tyranny is always capricious, and the willingness of police and compliant doctors and nurses to go along with it ought to disturb a supposedly free people, no matter how comparatively rare it may seem.
Meanwhile, an unarmed woman was gunned down on the streets of Washington, D.C., for no apparent crime other than driving too near Barackingham Palace and thereby posing a threat to national security. As disturbing as Miriam Carey’s bullet-riddled body and vehicle were, the public indifference to it is even worse. Ms. Carey does not appear to be guilty of any act other than a panic attack when the heavy-handed and heavier-armed palace guard began yelling at her. Much of what was reported in the hours after her death seems dubious: We are told Ms. Carey was “mentally ill,” although she had no medications in her vehicle and those at her home in Connecticut are sufficiently routine as to put millions of other Americans in the category of legitimate target. We are assured that she suffered from post-partum depression, as if the inability to distinguish between a depressed mom and a suicide bomber testifies to the officers’ professionalism. Under D.C. police rules, cops are not permitted to fire on a moving vehicle, because of the risk to pedestrians and other drivers. But the Secret Service and the Capitol Police enjoy no such restraints, so the car doors are full of bullet holes. The final moments of the encounter remain a mystery, but police were supposedly able to extract Ms. Carey’s baby from the back of a two-door vehicle before dispatching the defenseless mother to meet her maker.
Did I mention she was African American? When a black teen dies in a late-night one-on-one encounter with a fellow citizen on the streets of Sanford, Fla., it’s the biggest thing since Selma. But when a defenseless black woman is gunned down by a posse of robocops in broad daylight on the streets of the capital, the Rev. Jackson and the Rev. Sharpton and all the other bouffed and pampered grievance-mongers are apparently cool with it.
This isn’t very difficult. When you need large numbers of supposedly highly trained elite officers to kill an unarmed woman with a baby, you’re doing it wrong. In perhaps the most repugnant reaction to Ms. Carey’s death, the United States Congress expressed its “gratitude” to the officers who killed her and gave them a standing ovation. Back in the Eighties, the Queen woke up to find a confused young man at the end of her bed. She talked to him calmly until help arrived, and he was led away. A few years later, Her Majesty’s Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, was confronted by an aggrieved protester. As is his wont, he dealt with it somewhat more forcefully than his Sovereign, throttling the guy, forcing him to the ground and breaking his tooth, until the Mounties arrived to rescue the assailant from the Prime Minister. But, had the London and Ottawa intruders been gunned down by SWAT teams, I cannot imagine for a moment either the British or Canadian Parliament rising to applaud such an outcome. This was a repulsive act by Congress.
Miriam Carey is already forgotten, and the lawyer her family hired has now, conveniently, been jailed for a bad debt. I am not one for cheap historical analogies: my mother spent four of her childhood years under Nazi occupation, and it is insulting to her and millions of others who know the real thing to bandy overheated comparisons. But there is a despotic trend in American government. Too many of our rulers and their enforcers reflexively see the citizenry primarily as a threat. Which is why the tautness of one’s buns is now probable cause, and why in Congress the so-called people’s representatives’ first instinct is to stand and cheer the death of a defenseless woman.