Rob Nikolewski. Photo courtesy of Santa Fe New Mexican/Clyde Mueller.
By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog
I’m no Pollyanna. Too often the world can be, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.
But the story out of Deming earlier this month of 63-year-old David Eckert staggers the imagination, makes one ponder the erosion of civil liberties and provokes — without a hint of irony in these sardonic times — the question: How can something like this happen in America?
The details are disgusting but necessary to recap:
The 63-year-old Eckert, a Lordsburg resident, says that while driving out of a Wal-Mart in Deming in January, he was pulled over by police and accused of failing to make a complete stop.
Eckert says police told him to step out of his vehicle and when he did, police suspected he was clenching his buttocks. Police believed Eckert was carrying narcotics in his anal cavity and sought a search warrant.
According to a lawsuit Eckert has filed, police took Eckert to an emergency room in Deming to perform a cavity search. To his credit, the doctor there refused, calling it “unethical.”
Undeterred, police drove Eckert to neighboring Grant County, and at the Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City, Eckert was forced to undergo X-rays, two digital rectal exams and three enemas. Police compelled him to defecate in front of them and the doctors. Against his consent, Eckert was then sedated and underwent a colonoscopy.
No drugs were found.
And, by the way, Eckert was charged $6,000 for the colonoscopy.
“This is like something out of a science fiction film, anal probing by government officials and public employees,” Eckert’s attorney, Shannon Kennedy, told KOB-TV, which broke the story.
Eckert is seeking $1 million in punitive damages from the law enforcement and medical personnel involved.
Let’s hope the outrageous details of these allegations will draw attention to the problems caused by the deterioration of civil liberties in our country recent years. Two similar cases have been reported on the border.
Once upon a time, we took it for granted that a man and woman’s home was their castle. But a quick Internet search turns out repeated cases of no-knock assaults on people’s houses, which too many times lead to shooting deaths of homeowners or household pets in the confusion and chaos that accompanies these raids.
In his book, Rise Of The Warrior Cop, journalist and author Radley Balko documents how relentless policies calling for a “war” on this or “zero-tolerance” for that has escalated tension to the point where individual rights get smothered.
And it’s not just law enforcement. We’ve seen overreactions from public school officials to what a student says or wears to class. You may recall the story of the 7-year-old getting suspended for taking a bite out a Pop-Tart, noticing it resembled the outline of a gun and waving it.
A little more than a week ago, the Albuquerque City Council approved an ordinance that would allow police officers to seize any motor vehicle they believe to be used in a prostitution crime: Not after a conviction, mind you, but merely after an arrest.
Some may say, “Well, they seize vehicles after a DWI arrest.” But taking a car from somebody who flunks a sobriety test is one thing. After all, there’s a likelihood an impaired driver may use that vehicle as a weapon to kill others. But what does allegedly soliciting a hooker have to do with someone’s car? Especially since lawyers will tell you of the relatively low rate of conviction in solicitation cases.
But the ordinance sailed through on an 8-1 vote, and there hasn’t been much outcry in the Duke City, which may indicate we are becoming more inured to such predations on individual rights.
I know we don’t live in Mayberry, but is it too much to ask for authorities to act more like Andy Taylor, use common sense and only employ heavy-handed tactics as a last resort?
Instead, it seems we’re living in a world filled with Barney Fifes. Only nowadays, Barney’s on steroids and he’s armed to the teeth.
Contact Rob Nikolewski at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski