Oakland to consider warrant free searches

April 16, 2008 10:28:28 AM PDT
Will the people of Oakland voluntarily let police search their homes?

What if police came to your home to search your teenager's room for weapons, would you let them in without a warrant?

It's a scenario the people of Oakland could face, if a "voluntary search" program wins approval on Tuesday night.

It's a strategy already being used in Boston and Washington D.C.

In fact, in Washington, police say they're having a hard time keeping up with requests from parents to search their homes for guns.

But there's also concern the program gives too much power to police.

Oakland Police say the program was modeled after one that was successful in St. Louis. But even with the practice of police searching homes, even with the parent's permission, this comes with a lot of gray areas.

For, example: what if something like illegal drugs is found at the same time as the search? And should parents overwrite a child's constitutional right to privacy?

Living in West Oakland, Reggie Glover says guns go with the territory. More and more, guns are ending up in the hands of teenagers.

"Some people carry guns because they feel like they have to protect themselves, but some people carry them for the wrong reasons," said Glover.

Everyone seems to agree Oakland Police's consent-to-search program is being proposed for the right reason, but some think it takes the wrong approach.

The program would allow officers to ask parents to search their homes for guns -- guns belonging to their children.

Officers must promise no prosecution from their discoveries unless a gun is related to a shooting or murder.

"I'm never going to think that it's okay to rely upon police officers to be forthright about giving out the rights of individuals," said attorney John Burris.

Civil rights attorney John Burris says the program gives officers too much power.

"Frankly the constitution and the law itself that provides forreasonable suspicion and probable cause don't seem to be incorporated in this very language," said Burris.

An Oakland Police spokesperson would not comment, and officers assigned to implement the program did not return our calls.

City Council Member Nancy Nadel says she supported the concept but changed her mind.

"I have since found out from the ACLU that there are specific case law examples that say a parent cannot give police permission to search their child's private space," said Oakland City Council Member Nancy Nadel.

"I don't think it is right for them to go into your house to look for a gun. If it's yours it's there," said Gloria Williams.

Police say they will identify suspicious minors from the gun hotline, community tips and informants.

"I think the police should become more like educators, informing students on strategies and ways to deal with violence, as well as ways to deal with weapons," said McClymonds "Best School" Principal James Gray.

The City Council Meeting is just getting started, so there won't be a decision until later tonight.

If approved, the program will start a six-month trial period, and police chief Wayne Tucker said that trial period would not cause any overtime expenses.


Load Comments