Search and Seizure: Making Communities Safer

Written By: Richard T Eckert on 9/8/06
The debate over the 4th Amendment and the protection against unnecessary search and seizure has been a heated topic not only in our nation’s court rooms but between average citizens among us.  In the majority opinion in Mapp v. Ohio (1961), Justice Clark suggested that nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own law, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence. 

            Law enforcement continuously has to argue their cause when it comes to extralegal searches and their ability to remove illegal guns and drugs off our streets.  About 70% of all murders, 41% of all robberies and 19% of all aggravated assaults that were reported to the police were committed with firearms (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005).  These numbers are too alarming to just sit back and do nothing.  Society must allow our police officers to continue their search and seizure practices in order to make our communities safer.  Discretionary policing involves a trade-off; a trade-off that is made with using full knowledge (Harcourt, 2004, p. 375).  This tradeoff allows the police to conduct extralegal searches in the hopes of removing more guns and other forms of illegal contraband off our streets.  By binding the hands of law enforcement, communities indirectly allow the next crime to occur.  Police officers must be given the appropriate tools and methods to ensure the safety of our communities.  In order to pursue communities’ desire to get drugs and guns off our streets, society must allow the police to engage in proactive discretionary policing (Harcourt, 2004, p. 375).  It is easy to sit back and criticize police officers, thus preventing them from doing their jobs, but when one finds themselves on the side of the victim they soon have a change of heart.   

Bureau of Justice Statistics (2005). Crimes Committed with Firearms, 1973-2004.
Retrieved on September 8, 2006, from U.S Department of Justice Web site:
Harcourt, B. E. (2004). Unconstitutional Police Searches and Collective Responsibility. (Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 363-378).
Mapp v. Ohio, 367 US 643 (1961).
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