Henderson police arrested a family for refusing to let officers use their homes as lookouts for a domestic violence investigation of their neighbors, the family claims in court.
Anthony Mitchell and his parents Michael and Linda Mitchell sued the City of Henderson, its Police Chief Jutta Chambers, Officers Garret Poiner, Ronald Feola, Ramona Walls, Angela Walker, and Christopher Worley, and City of North Las Vegas and its Police Chief Joseph Chronister, in Federal Court.
The Mitchell family’s claim includes Third Amendment violations, a rare claim in the United States. The Third Amendment prohibits quartering soldiers in citizens’ homes in times of peace without the consent of the owner.
What allegedly happened — and I should emphasize that this is from the plaintiff’s complaint, so we don’t have the police side — was that the Henderson PD contacted Mitchell and wanted to use his home to gain a “tactical advantage” against a neighboring house. He refused. They later showed up and started banging on the door, demanding entry (so much for tactical advantage). When he didn’t open up, they smashed the door down, aimed weapons at him, fired pepperball rounds at him and his dog and arrested him for obstructing an officer.
Oh, they also tricked his dad out of a nearby home and arrested him when he tried to return. Both were charged with obstructing an officer. In both cases, the charge was dismissed with prejudice. Again, we don’t have the police side of this story. This was two years ago and the complaint hints that they have tried normal complaint avenues.
If the facts are as the complaint says, I like this. The police in this country have become increasingly militarized and taken an increasingly militaristic approach to law enforcement. This was not a case where there was a fleeing suspect and an imminent danger. According to the complaint, the cops did not show up to argue or persuade or even command. They broke down the door and used SWAT tactics against a completely innocent citizen.
More from Somin, who points out that the Third Amendment has never officially been “incorporated” so that it applies to state and local governments. This could be interesting. But I suspect it will end with some kind of settlement. Because the last thing law enforcement wants is for the Courts to start limiting their military capabilities.
(There are Fourth Amendment issues here as well; stay tuned for a post on that.)