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  • Last modified 83 days ago (Jan. 24, 2024)

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One step forward,
but will others follow?

Legislators’ attempts — even if local representatives Scott Hill and Stephen Owens won’t join them — to learn what investigators have found regarding the Aug. 11 raid on our newsroom is a welcome first step — but only a first step — in thoughtful examination of relevant laws.

Except in urgent cases, where evidence might be destroyed if a search isn’t promptly conducted, shouldn’t warrant applications have to be approved by a prosecutor?

Shouldn’t they likewise be submitted to fully fledged district judges, elected from the county involved, rather than out-of-county magistrates not answerable to local voters?

Shouldn’t law enforcement officers be required to show that whatever they are searching for couldn’t be obtained just as easily without a search?

Before raiding our newsroom, police never responded to a note we sent stating that we had the document they were searching for, did not plan to use it, and were willing to cooperate in any investigation.

Both the police chief and the sheriff failed to respond, opting to raid us rather than simply asking for what we already had offered to give them.

Worse yet, Ruth Herbel already disclosed the document she had received and how she had obtained it. Was there any purpose for searching her home other than to intimidate or embarrass her?

Officials need to be accountable when such excesses or neglect occurs. So far, however, both the magistrate and the prosecutor have taken refuge in laws that give them virtually unlimited immunity. Shouldn’t legislators be investigating whether these laws, treating officials much differently than average citizens, should be reconsidered?

Why, too, are police allowed to goad citizens into believing they are victims of crimes when the citizens already know that what happened didn’t happen the way police imagined?

Why are police then allowed to discuss launching criminal cases with political opponents of the targets of those cases?

And why do taxpayers have to assume financial responsibility for defending officials whose conduct in office is substantially below standards expected of them?

All these questions need to be raised, and none relate to equally serious questions about whether freedom of the press was trampled in the process.

We’re happy thoughtful legislators are beginning to ponder a few of the questions raised by the Aug. 11 raids, but we wonder why our local legislators haven’t joined them, why it has taken five months, and when the rest of the questions will be looked at.

Instead of addressing fundamental issues of freedom arising in their own back yards, some legislators have been too busy doing such things as fighting COVID-19 vaccinations and transgender athletes, wanting to force criminals to take citizenship classes, trying to make abortion illegal and all firearms legal, condemning attacks on Israel, and endorsing St. Patrick’s Day and internal combustion engines.

It’s rather like calling the fire department because your house is ablaze and having firefighters worry instead about whether grass around your sidewalk might need edging.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Jan. 24, 2024

 

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