Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has reached $1 million for a new violence prevention unit and has used it to call on neighbors to inform the police if any neighbors have been saying hostile things about the government. “We want people to call us if the guy down the street says he hates the government, hates the mayor and he’s gonna shoot him . . . What does it hurt to have somebody knock on a door and ask, ‘Hey, is everything OK?’ ” I have no problem with calling police if someone says that they are going to shoot someone. However, expressing hate for the mayor or government is a core part of free speech and the visit by the police can be viewed as having an obvious chilling effect on speech. He wants $3 million to expand the program.
The launching of the hotline suggested that neighbors should report anti-government neighbors. The hotline is designed to have police knock on doors of any citizen viewed as anti-government and potentially violent. Bradshaw insists that “Every single incident, whether it’s Newtown, that movie theater, or the guy who spouts off at work and then goes home and kills his wife and two kids — in every single case, there were people who said they knew ahead of time that there was a problem. If the neighbor of the mom in Newtown had called somebody, this might have saved 25 kids’ lives.”
That may be true but there are millions of people who express a hatred for the government or their local mayor. There are also millions of neighbors who have problems with other neighbors over local issues or political views or religious affiliation. The hotline is viewed by civil libertarians of encouraging neighborhood monitoring and databases identifying “problem” citizens.
What do you think?