Police searches: keeping us safe or destroying our rights?

June 4, 2008

Yesterday, a group of over 30 individuals met at the Freedom House in Grove Hall for Come Get Your Rights On – What You Need to Know about Police Searches, the third meeting in a series of forums discussing the Safe Homes Initiative. The program included a keynote speech from the National Black Police Association Executive Director Ronald Hampton, a response from Senator Dianne Wilkerson, and an informative panel including attorneys and community organizations.

State Senator Wilkerson speaks against the so called Safe Homes Initiative

The Safe Homes Initiative is a program initiated by the mayor and the Boston Police Department to respond to tips and remove illegal guns. This involves a team of at least three police officers, and possibly members of the clergy, visiting homes to ask for consent to search the bedrooms of young people.

The main point stressed by many speakers was the need for residents to be responsible for what happens in the community. Police often live outside of our communities, thus lacking invested interests. Panelists spoke about facilitating community policing and forming a Police Practices Working Group which will focus on the Safe Homes Initiative and other policing issues.

During the keynote, Ronald Hampton, a police officer for over 25 years, stated that he does not trust the police and would not let them into his home. He believes that the Safe Homes Initiative forces residents to sign away the Fourth Amendment right to protection and that the best thing to do when police attempt to search a house without a warrant is to refuse their request for consent.

Senator Dianne Wilkerson focused on developing a future plan with concrete actions since the Safe Homes Initiative targets the most vulnerable members of the community, like mothers of young teens. Informed consent is not possible as people are not told the consequences of allowing police to enter homes.

Also examined was Resolution 0565 which seeks to amend the Safe Homes Initiative by adding a blanket immunity from prosecution or ensuring that police visits are informational only. While this resolution does not fully solve our concerns, it is a step in the right direction. We encourage folks to call the Boston City Council to voice your thoughts about the initiative at (617) 305-3043. With a strong focus on developing a plan through the Police Practices Working Group, we are hopeful that this meeting will help ensure a safe community without violating any of our rights.