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Grand Jury (Day 13) – Sweat the Small Stuff

August 4th, 2005 by dk

Brooke Wilberger’s alleged killer was traced from New Mexico back to Oregon by a speeding ticket. Although he’s been accused or convicted of multiple violent sexual acts, it was a traffic cop who provided the dot that could be connected.

Whenever a civil liberty is narrowed, the first line of defense for the new “protection” is that law-abiding citizens have nothing to worry about. True enough, except that when the law of the land is now a series of books that are multiple yards thick (even more if you include the tax code), there are fewer and fewer of us who are completely law-abiding. And as databases begin to replace human memories, who among us doesn’t leave a string of pearls, dots to be connected, in case the government ever wants us for something? What does liberty mean when we require another’s consent to enjoy it?

Many of the crimes we hear about begin with a traffic violation of the most minor type. A missing license plate light leads to a stolen vehicle, an obstructed windshield (yep, it’s a law) leads to a meth bust. We heard today about a person who called the police to report an unlawful entry into her home, but when the police responded, somebody also ran a search of the victim. Turns out she had an outstanding warrant from another state, plus she had some bad stuff in her purse that she couldn’t explain. That’ll teach her to call for help next time somebody breaks into her home.

Behind on child support? Missed a student loan payment? Hedge too tall near the end of your driveway? Dogs not been properly curbed during your last walk in the park? Teenager playing music too loud while you’re away at work? Keeping some prescription medicine past the expiration date in case the malady returns?

It’s hard to know what might get you in trouble anymore. So if you have trouble, you might someday be tempted not to call for help, or at least not the police. Once the police are no longer one-stop-shopping for help in times of trouble — and it’s already this way for many people — then what we call society starts to crack into half — those who get help and those who just wish it would go away. Right now it’s just a splinter, a small segment of society that doesn’t trust the police, but it seems that the splinter is growing.

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