There are those who would commend Chief Gates for his long-standing, gutsy opposition to soft judges who try to tie police hands. Indeed, the chief's views finally appear vindicated by the state Supreme Court's turning back the clock 30 years to allow police leeway to violate search and seizure law.
Somehow, though, upon observing the chief's recent deployment of a battering ram into the cocaine-free home of a Pacoima family, one wonders if the good chief may have misunderstood the scope of discretion conferred by the Supreme Court. The new police right to break into homes of innocent people would not seem to include the option to use armored personnel carriers to raze entire houses.
Moreover, the chief's search-and-destroy mission must have caused at least $100,000 in damages. It netted nothing. So even if the people of this state have voted away their constitutional protection against maniacal police attacks, surely there must remain economic grounds for taxpayers to outlaw such unprofitable forays.
But perhaps there is reason to thank Chief Gates and our Supreme Court for battering us into 21st-Century sci-fi law enforcement. What with the advent of wide-screen home TV, a police "Road Warrior" mentality in action certainly makes for vivid viewing on the evening news. Something as stodgy as the Fourth Amendment could never score high Nielsen ratings.
ROBERT SHEAHEN Los Angeles
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.