Title

Public Housing Searches Ignore the Constitution

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-24-1994

Language

en-US

Abstract

IN 1760, the British government began a crackdown on illegal imports by American colonists. British customs officers, without judicial warrants or probable cause, searched homes and businesses looking for trade violations. A group of Boston merchants retained the lawyer James Otis to oppose this policy. In words that inspired revolutionary fervor, Otis declared that British search policy ``places the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer.''

Today, in response to a perceived increase in crime and violence, the Clinton administration has proposed police practices reminiscent of 18th-century British search tactics.

Responding to the pleas of residents of a crime-plagued Chicago housing project, the administration announced its support for warrantless searches of public housing apartments, frisking of suspicious persons, and the installation of metal detectors in the lobbies of buildings.

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