One place where liberals and libertarians can find common ground is government intrusion into private lives, and Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw’s “Violence Prevention Program” has all the earmarks of authoritarian overreach.
In theory, the idea of private citizens reporting on neighbors who say and do things that appear potentially harmful to general society makes some sense in this dangerous world. Yet, totalitarian governments have historically justified crackdowns on civil liberties by citing the need for public order and safety.
Sheriff Bradshaw’s office has submitted program guidelines to Gov. Scott’s office, and they state that someone who makes “anti-government comments,” but not “threats,” will be left alone. This seems like a mighty fine hair to split, particularly if the authorities that would intervene rely on the reporting party to interpret the true intent of the so-called suspect. It’s easy to see how a “comment” could become a “threat” if there’s a dispute between neighbors over, say, garbage cans being left out on the curb too long.
Since a 211 hot line already exists to report crazies and unstable people in Palm Beach County, the sheriff’s program sounds not only misguided but superfluous.
It reminds me of something the late Nick Navarro, former Broward County Sheriff, once said to the TV cameras and other assorted media that swooped in when he and his team busted a show at a gay bar (back when those things were considered lewd and a threat to public decency). Somebody asked him how the bust squared with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “I was born in Cuba,” he said. “I don’t know about the Constitution. All I know about is enforcing the law.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun