Friday, December 13, 2002

Nothing to see here, move along...

BELLEVILLE -- The Belleville News-Democrat has run two stories this week concerning "enforcement teams" consisting of area police teaming with housing inspectors, who are entering homes unannounced, and ticketing people who refuse to allow

A story that ran on Sunday of this week entitled,"Subject to Inspection" outlines a trend which is disturbing both conservatives and liberals, questioning a complete disregard for the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Belleville News-Democrat found:

• At least four times, the police-compliance officer teams have been accused of simply walking into houses unannounced without knocking first.

• A dozen times when people refused to let the officials in without first seeing a warrant, they were charged with obstruction or interfering with a health officer, despite a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that it is unconstitutional to arrest someone who doesn't allow a
search without a warrant.

• Fifty-seven percent of those cited for occupancy code violations were white, while 43 percent were black. Belleville's black population is 15.5 percent, according to the 2000 Census.

• The Police Department has taken advantage of the housing inspections, the records show. In at least 10 cases, the housing inspections gave police an easy way into homes to search for drugs.

On Tuesday of these week, a follow-up story revealed more details.

Will Jordan, executive director of the nonprofit Equal Housing Opportunity Council told the Belleville News-Democrat said he would ask prosecutors in the U.S. attorney's office in Fairview Heights to contact the U.S. Justice Department to consider looking into how Belleville enforces its
occupancy laws.

The newspaper quoted Belleville Police Chief Terry Delaney as saying, "Enforcing the city's overcrowding laws by inspecting homes without getting a search warrant and ticketing residents who do not allow searches will continue."