Despite its having been instituted back in the summer of 2005, New York City’s policy of permitting the police to rifle through any would-be subway rider’s bags has never ensnared me – until this week. As I was walking into the entrance for the 7 trains a heavily armed officer politely directed me to move over to a table and allow another heavily armed officer to rifle through my bag.
I turned around and walked out. You do not have to consent to the search (not yet), but you may not enter that station if you don’t. Neither officer really cared. It’s as if everyone knew what a brainless farce it all is. With the easy availability of alternative entrances to every subway platform, it’s a quick walk, half a block usually, to re-enter through another portal for the same station. How hard would it really be to sneak a bomb onto a subway? Not very.
It is not so much the obvious impossibility that the searches will keep the populace safe from terrorist attack that riles me; it is the principle behind the policy. To see, day in and day out, heavily armed police’ officers randomly selecting an unarmed subway rider so that he or she may be searched will, over time, inure New Yorkers to the danger to liberty that is inherit in arbitrary searches. And as time goes by, the right of a would-be passenger to refuse to be searched will be taken away, and instead of simply walking to another entrance and being on my way, I will feel a taser shot, followed by a knee in my back.
My New York ancestors would have taken any politician infected with the power-lust necessary to call for such an odious policy and thrown him, tarred and feathered, into the Hudson River. Those days are gone, thinks I, as I walk to the subway amidst all the police loitering about, their machine guns slung across their Kevlar encased bodies, ready, waiting to be used.