Thursday, April 30, 2009

Another Good Reason The U.S. Needs The American Civil Liberties Union

A recent case in Portland, Oregon where a Portland Community College instructor was falsely arrested on prostitution charges for merely waiting for a bus for a ride home is a another pretty good example why the United States needs civil liberties watchdogs like the American Civil Liberties Union.

On 82nd Avenue, there is a SouthEast Center Campus of Portland Community College, and a young female instructor was merely waiting for a bus to arrive, before Portland vice cops swooped down on her and held her for two hours on false prostitution arrest charges. The city eventually paid her $5,000 in damages for the false arrest, but it doesn't take away from the fact of a cavalier legal system way too fast to put citizens in jail on false charges even if no evidence of a crime even exists.

The city and the police both attempted to defend this arrest claiming that her behavior was suspicious merely because some buses passed her by and she did not get on. However, often many bus stops are used for as many as five different bus lines going to different locations and some buses are "limited" ones that do not make stops. Waiting for more than one bus is certainly not uncommon for anyone who rides a bus. Another claim was that she talked to someone in a car. However, the city failed to prove that wasn't one of her students who might have seen her at the bus stop and attempted to offer her ride that she might have declined because they weren't traveling in her direction.

The fact of the matter is society cannot be so concerned with stomping out victimless crimes such as actual prostitution that innocent citizens are swooped-up in government dragnets and arrested on false charges. Civil liberties organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union have to wage an ongoing fight with local, state and federal governments who go too far in laying out government dragnets. Capturing college instructors who merely wait for a bus ride home from work is a poor law enforcement practice. Just because a college instructor is young or even attractive is not a very good a reason to put her in jail on false prostitution charges with no evidence of her ever having committed any crime. The $5,000 in damages paid to this innocent victim hardly go far enough to repay her for this human rights outrage against the right of a young woman to wait for a bus ride home from work without the fear of false arrest.


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