America’s Independence Day
copyright ccijax 2006

from Xiphos
An early morning ride on my Harley-Davidson revealed a town festooned in stars and stripes. I saw a couple of real stars, too. My local police department was working the streets, protecting me and mine on my day off. The Highway Patrol trooper that lives around the corner was headed toward the freeway to begin his shift. As I followed a patrol cruiser down the street, I was reminded that he and I and every law enforcement officer today honors the flag every day, not just on America's Independence Day. We honor the flag through fidelity to the Constitution of the United States of America.

Most folks just waking up on my street couldn't tell you about the Fourth Amendment to save their lives. But many cops that I know can recite all 54 words. The Fourth Amendment is the focus of Xiphos because the Fourth Amendment is the focus of a working cop's day. Those folks who don't quite remember the Fourth Amendment to save their lives are protected by men and women would give their lives to preserve constitutional freedoms.

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. " Fifty-four simple words. Yet thousands and thousands of American warriors have solemnly sworn to give these words daily meaning. Thousand and thousands of American warriors have honorably died to preserve the rights promised by these few words.

Perhaps no provision of the Constitution can so directly trace its heritage to the colonists' outrage over the King's excesses. In England in 1603, Semayne's Case firmly established that a "man's home is his castle" and he may forbid the agents of the King to enter without legal writ. Samuel Adams often quoted William Pitt's great 1763 speech before Parliament: " The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the force of the crown. It may be frail--its roof may shake--the wind may blow through it--the storm may enter, the rain may enter--but
the King of England cannot enter--all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement." In his lawsuit against the King's troops for their forced entry into his premises relying only on a general warrant, James Otis reminded colonial America that the rights extended across the sea were denied in America. Otis spoke forcefully and passionately against searches and seizures made without judicial process and he became one of the fathers of the Fourth Amendment. John Adam's stated that Otis's speech against general search warrants was the sparked that fired the revolution. The Fourth Amendment was America's new promise that her government would respect the law of search and seizure.

In 1789, James Madison proposed twelve amendments to the Constitution. Madison originally opposed the idea of a bill of rights because he did not believe that the federal government would ever be strong enough to require limitations. His friend, Thomas Jefferson, persuaded him otherwise. Madison drew the Fourth Amendment, and other provisions, from the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason. However, the notion of judicial process to enter and search dates to the Magna Carta of 1215.

As law enforcement brothers and sisters, we may not know as much about the Fourth Amendment's history as a law professor. However, as American public servants, sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, we know what the Fourth Amendment means. We know the price required to give the Fourth Amendment vitality and meaning. We know who, in the dark hours of the night, in the alleys, even in the gunfights, keeps the Fourth Amendment alive. Cops preserve the front line of America's Independence.

I'm proud to fly the flag. I'm the proud father of a soldier who answered the call of duty in time of war and continues in noble service. I'm proud to be just one of America's hundreds of thousands of law enforcement brothers and sisters. I'm proud to be an American. Enjoy this festive and sacred holiday. God bless this great nation.