Policing in secret erodes our rights

Today’s Union Leader has a front page article titled, Police: Encrypting scanners thwarted criminals. Of course, you should take their word for it, right? Because we now have no other source to vet police activity in our city, other than what they themselves tell us after the fact. This means there are zero checks and balances left if you care about police accountability, as I do.

The language in the article reads like a dime store novel: “thwarted,” “foiled,” “sneaky intel,” “sinister activity,” “very cunning criminal enterprise,” “merciless gang,” “iron grip,” etc.

What the article fails to mention is how the encryption of the MPD scanners in 2016 came about. Let me remind you:

  • It was a backroom deal with no public input AT ALL.
  • It was done right after the West Side Lockdown, during which the MPD declared what sounded like martial law and ordered ordinary West Side residents back into their homes at gunpoint.
  1. Many West Side residents listened to the scanner during the eleven hour ordeal in order to try to glean information about what was happening and why our rights were being curtailed. Because of the information on the scanners, we were able to piece together the facts, including that the suspect was arrested BEFORE the lockdown started.
  2. Many West Side residents were displeased with the handling of the unconstitutional lockdown and the subsequent encryption of police scanners. I led a protest at City Hall. You can read my speech here, which included suggestions and solutions to curb the problems of policing in secret.

“Open, honest and transparent policing can not come from actions like encrypting all police communications without any prior public discussion. Public access to information transmitted by police radios is a longstanding, healthy tradition, and to unilaterally make these communications encrypted, while increasing the use of military tactics and equipment on the streets of our city is unacceptable. It is unacceptable in a free and open society, and it is unacceptable in our hometown!”

Oh, Carla, I hear you say. Why are you harping on about this? That ship has sailed! But I disagree. I believe more and more people are waking up to the reality that the checks and balances between “we, the people” and the government have flipped.

The way it is supposed to work: The government is open, transparent, and accountable to the people. The government doesn’t get to keep secrets from you, because they work FOR you. (As a board member of Right to Know NH, I can tell you, this notion is now an uphill battle.)

The way it actually works: YOU have no right to privacy, YOU are spied on, YOU have no right to know what the government is up to, YOU better get back in your house when a police officer points a gun at you when you walk out your front door. Makes you wonder if they are, indeed, working for you...

The most telling sentence in the article is this: “Instead, police were the ones being spied upon as an elaborate and very cunning criminal enterprise was conducting surveillance on them.”

Let’s parse this out. Is it “spying” when you access information that is supposed to be public? Can you unilaterally decide that ordinary people must be equally punished for some bad actors? Can you call it “surveillance” when someone listens to the police scanner (as we once could)? Does this way of thinking by our police department not chill you to the bone--as it does me? Does it not unequivocally show the MPD does not understand the rights of ordinary law-abiding citizens, while grabbing those rights for themselves? Like I said, the checks and balances have been flipped upside down!

Yes, there are bad guys in the world. Yes, we want the police to catch them. But when we take away the rights of everyone because there are bad guys in the world, we have a problem. When we condone policing in secret, lockdowns, and the notion that information that was historically publicly available (and was stolen from us in a backroom deal) is now regarded as “spying on” and “surveilling” the police, we have a serious problem.

When the MPD calls for even more encryption for other public departments, like Chief Capano does in today's article, we have a serious problem.

Hey guys: We have a serious problem! Us reasonable folks over here are stuck in the middle getting squeezed. Our rights are supposed to be inalienable, but they are being eroded in the name of “safety,” and this is unacceptable. It is a short jump from this way of thinking to tyranny.

A vote for me on November 6 is a vote for limited, Constitutional government and the restoration of our rights. You should also vote in favor of both proposed Constitutional amendments (I'll be covering these more in the coming months, but in the meanwhile, read about it here), because these two proposals are steps in the right direction. Remember, restoring and retaining our rights is up to us all!

If you would like me to come speak at an event--I’d love to meet you!--please email me at Carla (at) Carla4NHSenate (dot) com.

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