The decision last week to have police officers inspect the belongings of thousands of subway riders has opened a thicket of legal and constitutional issues, involving criminal procedure, transit security and concerns about potential misuse of the new tactic.The Fourth Amendment has always been one of the more elastic clauses in the United States Constitution. It's violated constantly, under a variety of excuses, both legitimate and fabricated.
Yesterday, Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the organization had begun work on a federal lawsuit, which could be filed this week. Such a challenge will most likely claim that the policy violates the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against "unreasonable searches and seizures."
And at a news conference in Brooklyn, Capt. Eric Adams, the president of a group of black police officers, said its members were worried that riders of Middle Eastern, African or Asian descent would be disproportionately targeted in the searches, despite official assurances to the contrary.
If I thought random searches of backpacks would keep us safer, I might support the idea. But it's a joke. Since you can't be detained for refusing to be searched, anyone with bomb-laden backpack can just turn around and go to a different subway stop. And since they're searching backpacks, wouldn't the would-be terrorist simply use a different method? I'm surprised they're not asking us to take off our shoes.
I haven't been stopped yet, since I don't ride the subway every day. But damned if a New York City cop is searching any bag of mine. I don't think so.
New York Times story here. And here's the story when the new policy was announced.