The United States Supreme Court, the highest c...

The United States Supreme Court, the highest court in the United States, in 2010. Top row (left to right): Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, and Associate Justice Elena Kagan. Bottom row (left to right): Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, and Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 5-4 ruling by the United States Supreme Court that strip searches, even for minor offenses, are legal is a disturbing blow to civil liberties. A man in New Jersey was stripped search after he was thought to have failed to pay a fine. It turned out that he had actually paid it, but that is irrelevant. What is relevant is that someone accused of a minor offense should not be humiliated and made to undress, having the most personal parts of the body probed. Apparently the Supreme Court, having made other provisions of the Constitution irrelevant due to their meddling, now believe that the Fourth Amendment no longer applies.

I do not understand how the justices who supported the majority opinion–Kennedy (who wrote the opinion), Chief Justice Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas–could be considered the Court’s “conservatives.” Surely it is not conservative to give police the power to abuse ordinary people who are charged (not convicted, thus they are legally innocent) with minor offenses such as a fine or traffic violation. One of the few good things the Warren Court did in the 1960s was to limit excessive police power. Otherwise, we run the danger of facing the same kind of atrocities visited on the American colonists by British law enforcement officials military personnel, or the atrocities that take place in any police state. I fear that the United States (as well as the United Kingdom) are on their way to becoming police states.

As we know from the Stanford Prison Experiment, people placed in positions of total power over someone’s treatment, especially when such treatment involves stripping the patient naked, easily move to abuse their power. The students in the Stanford experiment playing the “guards” would have the students playing the “prisoners” strip naked for “delousing.” It did not take long from that point for further abuses to occur. The kind of humiliation involved in a strip search should be reserved for the most hardened prisoners who might be hiding weapons or drugs on their person.

Americans are rapidly regressing to the point that they “do not deserve security nor freedom,” to use the statement attributed to Benjamin Franklin. It is unfortunate that the highest court in the land has sped the process of changing a democratic republic into a tyranny–even a “soft tyranny” is a bad thing and can lead to a full-fledged Soviet-style tyranny later. Police departments should use common sense in their strip search policies. If the states have any recourse given this ruling, they should pass state laws limiting police power regarding strip searches. A small risk of something bad happening is better than the greater risk of a police state.