ACLU Targets Effective Police Work
July 22, 2008
The ACLU has objected to the use of “jump-out squads” in high crime areas of Elsmere and Wilmington, Delaware, which target parolees and habitual criminals. The results are that significant numbers of criminals are being taken off the streets of both cities. Local officials and residents support the use of the squads. And the efforts are apparently constitutional.
The facts for this article, but not the legal conclusions, come from an article on Delaware Online, on 20 July, 2008. The article is about “Jump-out Squads” being used in two Delaware communities. The ACLU claims that the squads are unconstitutional.
The article begins with the sad tale of Joseph Lilly who “wasn’t a fugitive” nor “a suspect,” yet who wound up being detained on his own front porch. Deep in the article, the reader finds out that the police were seeking this man’s brother who was on probation. And that this man consented to let the police into his parents’ home. And that police found in the home “six rifles, a .357 magnum, packaged marijuana and digital scales.” Before police left, Lilly’s brother Jacob, arrived, and was arrested.
These squads operate in high crime areas of Elsmere and Wilmington, Delaware. Parole and probation officers accompany the police in the jump-outs. The reason is that people on parole are under conditions which allow their homes and cars to be searched without warrants, for evidence of illegal activities, which are also violations of parole and probation.
The new Elsmere Police Chief, Liam Sullivan, brought the tactic from Wilmington, where he had been a sergeant. The article recites that “in Wilmington, police said the squads have succeeded in a department that has 18 percent of Delaware’s law enforcement officers but makes 44 percent of the state’s arrests.”
Jump-outs are named for the fact that they use multiple vehicles, and take control of an area immediately on arriving. In a one-month period in Wilmington, the squads detained 261 people. The youngest person arrested was 12, for possession with intent to deliver heroin.
26 percent of those arrested were on probation. Nearly a third were categorized as career criminals. The people rounded up had an average of 22 prior arrests and two prior felony convictions. One had been arrested 110 times. Another had 16 felony convictions.
Wilmington Police Chief Szczerba said, “I hope that shows that we don’t go after people willy-nilly. Repeat offenders is the name of the game when it comes to who the jump-out squads come into contact with.”
Drewry Fennell, director of the Delaware chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “Your constitutional rights are not determined by your geographical locations. Police officers are not entitled to stop you without reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed.”
Mr. Fennell was partly right. Constitutional rights do not vary with where people live. However, anyone with any knowledge of medium to large cities knows that the crime rate DOES vary with location. Also, Mr. Fennell missed the fact that the police conduct surveillance and receive tips, before making these raids. He also ignores the fact that parolees can be searched at will, without warrants.
In both Elsmere and Wilmington, the local City Councilmen are generally in favor of the jump-outs. Wilmington Councilman Sam Prado also thinks the squads should be used more. He said, “I’m sick of criminals ruining the lives of good people. What some people think is going over the line to me is more like we’re finally taking a stand.”
Despite ACLU objections, the Police Chiefs in both Elsmere and Wilmington say that the jump-out squads will continue to do their work, going into high crime areas armed with photographs and warrants.
Even the local residents are in favor of the squads. The article ends with this: “On the first block of Poplar Street, where Joseph Lilly’s brother Jacob was arrested, neighbors watched and sighed. ‘I have been waiting patiently for police to do something over there,’ said Denice Fioravanti. ‘I suspected that it was drugs going on over there.’ “
Source for original story on the Net: