Last November, we reported on a contentious program proposed by the Boston police department, whereby police officers would seek “voluntary” permission to enter and search people’s homes (and specifically, children’s bedrooms) for drugs and firearms—without notice or warrants.
Under the controversial “Home Safe” program, teams of police officers would be assigned to the city’s public schools and would seek out leads on students believed to have firearms. Officers would then show up at the student’s home and ask to immediately search the premises, confiscating any firearms they find. Officers would be empowered to exercise their personal discretion should they encounter drugs or signs of other illegal activity.
Two weeks ago, we reported on a similar program being proposed in Washington, D.C., a city that has had an outright ban on handguns for more than three decades yet, ironically, continues to rank at, or near, the top of the list of our nation’s most violent cities.
This week, the Boston program is back in the news. According to a March 25, Boston.com article, intense opposition from residents has forced officials to scale back the scope of the questionable program, which had been scheduled to begin in December. Implementation has been delayed at least three times since then, due to concerns within the community.
“The community doesn’t want this,” Lisa Thurau-Gray, managing director of the Juvenile Justice Center at Suffolk University Law School, said at a recent meeting held to discuss the plan. “What part of ‘no’ don’t they understand?” she said.While these sham programs stipulate that residents have the right to refuse the search, questions of constitutionality, intimidation, and civil liberties violations have rightly been raised. Critics say that the searches are unconstitutional and that police will not guarantee that residents would face no criminal charges if guns or drugs were found. There is also a fear that people may be too intimidated to deny police access to their homes, or may not understand the legal ramifications of their compliance with the searches, which, despite assurances of amnesty, could include eviction, arrest, and prosecution.