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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Police State USA’

- - Wednesday, July 16, 2014

POLICE STATE USA: HOW ORWELL'S NIGHTMARE IS BECOMING OUR REALITY
By Cheryl K. Chumley
WND Books, $26.95, 240 pages

The subtitle to this alarmingly titled book is "How Orwell's Nightmare is Becoming Our Reality." The author, a news writer for The Washington Times, offers as illustration a case in which a former Marine was arrested and forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation on the basis of anti-government messages posted on his Facebook page. However, as Mrs. Chumley evenhandedly says, the Marine's case was dismissed by a judge within days, and he is now the one suing the government for false imprisonment.

Here in brief is the strength and the weakness of this potentially important and yet frustrating book. It selects and highlights scores of incidents in which every level of American government has by now been implicated, in which the basic rights of citizens have been not accidentally, but quite deliberately, cast aside and violated. Moreover, it makes clear beyond doubt that these manifold constitutional violations are not accidental, but the expression of deliberate governmental policy. The militarization of federal and local policing is largely the result of the Department of Homeland Security, a bastard child of post-Sept. 11, 2001, hysteria, equipping tens of thousands of SWAT teams and other special police units with weapons never before seen on American streets: huge MRAP armored trucks, .50 caliber machine guns, military personnel armor and combat rifles carried by Marines and soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The search and seizure of all of our personal records and communications, entirely apart from any known connection to terrorism is, as testified to by the NSA's technical director, William Binney, a deliberate federal government decision to ignore any rights citizens may possess under the Constitution and laws.

Mrs. Chumley sets forth much of the full laundry list of these and similar offenses against constitutional order. In this she does a real service, no doubt awakening many citizens who do not normally follow the Internet doomsayers. In this regard, her book can be well recommended for presentation to graduating students.

Where the book is frustrating, however, is that it offers no solution, no program for preservation and recovery of freedom. Calling attention to abuses and dangers is a worthy service. However, without solutions, without a program, without answers to our difficulties, it is a counsel of despair. In this it is profoundly against the American grain.

The most obvious example is the book's treatment of the truly dreadful increase in the armaments of American police departments. In her evident concern to warn us of these facts, she omits to mention or discuss the thousands of police and sheriffs' departments that are traveling in exactly the opposite direction: police leaders and officers who are working to make their agencies more pacific and gentle, better servants of their citizens and communities, cops who regard the kinds of brutal police actions Mrs. Chumley describes as completely unprofessional and unrepresentative of proper American policing.

Just one example: El Paso, Texas, is acclaimed as the safest large city in the country. It has all the potential problems of a city right on the southern border, it has shortages of personnel and money, and its only evident advantages over other departments are the dedication, imagination and honor of its officers and their commanders. Not only is El Paso not issuing its officers more elaborate and deadly weapons, at this very moment, after a five-year effort to teach its officers how to arrest and control suspects predominantly with their bare hands and their ability to think and speak, the department is retiring their billy clubs and chemical sprays.

What El Paso proves is that we still have great resources with which to resist the would-be tyrants of the governing classes. We have fellow citizens of courage, dedication to decency and justice, and to the principles of constitutional government. We have many judges at all levels still committed to free government and free citizens — and we still have our politics. How many strict constitutionalists have even tried to talk to their police officers — not just the chiefs, but also the lieutenants and sergeants and beat officers and deputies — about the right direction for their law enforcement agencies? How many of us have spoken with the city council, the governor's office, the school board? How many have looked, for example, to the Committees of Correspondence that did so much to prepare the way for the first American Revolution? What Mrs. Chumley and other bell-ringers need now is to write some practical guides to political action and resistance to illegitimate exercise of authority.

Adam Walinsky, a lawyer, served as legislative assistant to then-Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. He is the founder of the Police Corps and a consultant and adviser to police departments.