Posted: 1/9/2003 5:19:06 AM EDT
Crimes before the fact
In last year's mega-hit movie "Minority Report," starring Tom Cruise in a mid-21st-century sci-fi thriller, D.C. police identify persons who have not yet committed a crime, but who, based on premonition evidence are going to commit a crime, and then swoop in and arrest these pre-criminals before they can carry out their dastardly deeds.
A fine movie; I saw it and liked it. Well, it isn't even 2054 (the year in which the movie is set), and already, Washington-area police — in this case, Fairfax County, Va.'s finest — are taking the movie to heart, and putting it into practice now.
Seems the local constabularies are getting bored actually waiting for crimes to be committed, and then, based on actual evidence, practicing good police work and arresting the perpetrators.
The gendarmes are going into local area bars undercover, waiting for patrons to imbibe what might possibly be too much inside the bar, forcing them outside for a mandatory blood-alcohol content test and, if they fail, citing them. In some instances, eschewing the boredom of operating undercover, they are charging in with full, SWAT regalia, and pulling patrons outside the bar. All this with no evidence whatsoever the poor souls enjoying a drink at the local pub were going to get behind the wheel of a vehicle and drive under the influence.
Perhaps the Fairfax County Police Department has its own "pre cog" — the strange humans in "Minority Report" who envision the future and identify the criminals before they are criminals, in order for the police to arrest them and save potential victims of crimes. Maybe this Fairfax pre cog relays to the men and women in blue a vision of these potential evildoers who are drinking too much and might do something bad.
Or, perhaps the police in Fairfax County don't have a clue these bar patrons will or will not drive under the influence — which certainly is a crime and certainly ought to be stopped and punished. Perhaps they are simply police officers whose sensibilities are enraged by people in a bar having a good time, even if perhaps drinking more than local Officer Muldoon condones.
The department's explanation that it is against the law to be intoxicated in a public place (including a bar), is nonsense, even if, in a hyper-technical sense, correct. Someone perhaps ought to remind Fairfax County that bars actually exist as places in which people drink alcohol; it's not only legal, it's encouraged.
This actually is a frightening scenario that one hopes is nipped in the bud. Not only is this sort of Gestapolike behavior chilling in the extreme, but if condoned or encouraged, will find its way into other areas of detaining or arresting people for potential criminal behavior.
Come to think of it, however, we're already on the way to that scenario, what with the manner in which law-abiding citizens are subject to humiliating, public partial strip searches for no reason other than they might have looked at an airport security person in the wrong way, or bought a ticket in a manner different from their usual routine.
All this fits right in with the "Eye-in-the-Sky" perspective of retired Adm. John Poindexter and the cherished Total Information Awareness system he's building at the Pentagon — collect all the information on as many people as you can in advance, decide who might be bad, and act on it. So what if you invade the privacy of virtually every law-abiding citizen in the country; you might be able to possibly identify a potential lawbreaker. The good retired admiral would really like those guys down at the Fairfax precinct. They're his kind of guys.
We are already, as a society, reaping what we've sown. And this is not the movies, folks.