Last night, the Indiana General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1, which, once signed into law, will resolve a nearly year-long deprivation of the civil rights of residents of the State of Indiana. Readers who have followed me for the last year will be aware of my previous “Outrage In Indiana” posts on this very subject. For those who haven’t, let me recap.
In Part One, on May 13th of last year, I described the appalling decision by Indiana’s State Supreme Court in the case of Barnes v. State of Indiana. The court determined that a private person had no right to resist unlawful police burglary of their home. I detailed the 800-year-old legal precedents which allow for such use of force, and the farce of the court’s decision. In Part Two, I published an open letter to Governor Mitch Daniels, imploring him to take whatever action he possibly could to provide relief to Hoosiers subjected to police lawlessness. In Part Three, I published the very thoughtful response I received from his office.
To review the matter at hand: Richard Barnes had an argument with his wife, and neighbors called the police. Upon their arrival, the Barneses had reentered their home, and no further argument was occurring. Officers Lenny Reed and Jason Henry (more on them in a moment) insisted on entering the home, and Mr. Barnes refused them entry. The police, unlawfully, entered the home anyway. Mr. Barnes attempted to use non-deadly force to expel them, and he was tased and arrested.
Eight centuries of legal precedent, from the Magna Carta to two 20th century SCOTUS decisions, explicitly authorize the use of reasonable force to prevent unlawful acts of the police. The laws of the state of Indiana do not privilege police officers from justified force if they are acting outside the bounds of the law. The Fourth Amendment, and a substantially similar provision in Indiana’s Constitution prohibit precisely this conduct- the unwarranted and unlawful entry into a private home by government agents.
Nonetheless, Indiana’s Supreme Court ignored the eight centuries of legal tradition, multiple decisions of the United States Supreme Court, the United States Constitution, and the Constitution and laws of Indiana, and determined that a Hoosier’s only lawful recourse was to sue the police agency for damages after being the victim of a violent crime (in this case, burglary and assault) committed by a police officer.
Our Second, Third, and Fourth Amendment rights were established by our Founding Fathers for expressly this reason: Prior to, and during, the American Revolution, armed agents of the British government- soldiers- would routinely enter private homes without cause, assault homeowners and arrest them without charges, and quarter themselves in private homes in order to intimidate homeowners into submission. Expressly for this reason, we have a right to keep and bear arms, a freedom from quartering in private homes, and a freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.
We also have a natural, or God-given (depending on your outlook), right of self-defense, a topic which I have written about extensively. The instinct to protect ourselves, our families, and our property from violent attack is as natural to us as the need to eat. A government decree that a certain class of persons- namely, police officers- are “untouchable”, and may commit violent crimes at will, and the prosecution of private persons who exercise this right against them, is wholly offensive to the basic principles enshrined in our founding document.
Thankfully, Indiana’s legislature has taken up the cause of preserving individual liberties in this matter. Senate Bill 1, introduced by State Senator Mike Young and sponsored by numerous other state legislators, seeks to amend the Indiana Code to explicitly authorize the use of reasonable force against law enforcement officers who commit crimes against private persons.
In short, SB1 changes the language of the state’s use-of-force laws to state that “any person” may be the recipient of defensive force, and adds a section specifically addressing the use of force against police officers. This section authorizes the use of non-deadly force against “any law enforcement officer” to prevent the police officer’s criminal attack upon the person or property, and authorizes deadly force to prevent a law enforcement officer’s criminal attack which may inflict death or serious bodily injury.
Once signed into law, Indiana will become only the second state in the nation to specifically authorize the use of force against police officers acting unlawfully. North Dakota authorizes the use of force to terminate a police officer’s unlawful use of deadly force. Indiana’s statute would dramatically exceed this limited level of protection.
I applaud the state legislature for taking this necessary step to improve the right of self-defense. I also understand Sen. Young is facing a primary challenge this year. I hope Hoosiers will go to the polls in droves and show their support for this fine representative of the people.
And on a final, and ignominious note: Officer Lenny Reed, one of the two goons who burglarized Mr. Barnes’ home, and (ironically) the medic for Evansville PD’s SWAT team, was also involved in an incident involving racial profiling and substantial damage to an innocent man’s RV- which the man was delivering to a buyer- when Reed initiated a wrongful drug search. This incident occurred less than four months before the Indiana Supreme Court’s Barnes decision. Inexplicably, Reed was promoted to Sergeant during roughly the same time frame.
The other goon involved, Officer Jason Henry, resigned from Evansville Police Department after beating up a former sheriff’s deputy, only three months before the Barnes decision. The beating occurred at a meeting of the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police, no less.
Residents of Vanderburgh County have ample reason to question Evansville Police Chief Brad Hill’s professional judgment. Apparently Hoosiers can’t even rely upon the common sense of local officials and police administrators for relief from police lawlessness, which makes the passage of SB1 all the more vital. Mary Beth Schneider of the Indianapolis Star tweeted last night that SB1 passed the Indiana Senate 38-12 and passed the Indiana House 67-26, and is now on its way to Governor Daniels’ desk.
Many thanks to my dear friend April Gregory for her invaluable assistance in researching this post.