One of the most important ideas underlying American political philosophy is the social contract.
In essence, it is the argument that when we form or accept a government, that government is obligated to protect our rights as humans. In exchange, we will forgo vigilante justice in favor of the rule of law.
Apparently, some members of the Buffalo Police Department weren’t paying attention in their history or government classes.
WKBW-TV reported on Feb. 8 that local resident Jake Reinhardt was held at gunpoint by out-of-state bounty hunters and ordered to leave his home.
Surveillance video showed Reinhardt informing the bounty hunters that his pregnant wife and young child were sleeping inside the home and then asking if the hunters had a warrant.
Instead of providing the necessary legal documentation, the bounty hunters ordered Reinhardt to step aside before storming the home with their guns drawn. Then, they barged into Reinhardt’s tenant’s apartment, where there were very young children as well.
What vile crime justified this warrantless action?
None. The bounty hunters were looking for Reinhardt’s brother, who was not there and has never lived there, according to WIVB-TV.
Meanwhile, as WKBW reported, two Buffalo police officers stood on the porch and watched the wanton terror unfold.
‘“I don’t even know what agency that is either,” one officer said.
“Me neither,” said the other. “I think they’re from PA.”’
Why are bounty hunters allowed to barge into homes with limited supervision and without a warrant?
If you are wondering this, you are not alone.
WKBW reported in a Feb. 10 update that Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen is demanding a review of the city Police Department’s bounty hunter policy.
“Generally, I’m very concerned,” Pridgen said. “If bail bondsmen are allowed to do what our local police department can not do — and that is to enter a house without a warrant … from what I’m being told, it could be any house.”
However, WIVB reported that it had already “discovered that the police department does not have any policies on how officers should interact with bounty hunters, despite the 1998 death of Robert McLellan, a Buffalo police officer who died on duty after being struck by a vehicle on the Kensington Expressway while assisting bounty hunters chase a fugitive.”
According to WIVB, Reinhardt filed a lawsuit in federal court in an attempt to uphold his constitutional rights.
“The federal lawsuit accuses the armed bounty hunters of entering his home at about midnight without any consent to do so,” the station reported. “The bounty hunters also lacked a warrant, the lawsuit states.”
Evidently, Buffalo has serious moral, legal and constitutional holes in its policies relating to bounty hunters.
This is America. Nobody should be able to barge into an innocent person’s home and terrorize his or her family — especially without a warrant.
Hopefully, Reinhardt’s lawsuit will prove successful and highlight the constitutional failings in the city.
This is a tough time to be involved in police work, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for the vast majority of law enforcement officials who uphold and enforce the law to the letter.
But this is different.
This is lawlessness, and our society should not tolerate it.
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