First in a Series by Eddie Sidgeweck
About those random home-invasive visits to registrants’ homes, undertaken here and there by various law agencies but not required by any state law in Nebraska.
In fact, Nebraska’s current state laws supposedly provide law enforcement with the monitoring tools they need, including multiple in-person reports. However, we have documented a number of extra-legal activities. Officers sometimes just show up at the door. We know of some registrants who are required to report in person to the sheriff’s office as many as 12 times a year, despite the fact that Nebraska law at most requires four visits a year.
Where these invasive practices have been challenged in court, they have been snuffed: In Doe v LaDue, 514 F. Supp. 2nd 1131 (D. Minn. 2007), for example. The court found that the home-invasive practices — done without probable cause or reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing — were violations of the U.S. Constitution.
In Nebraska, we have fresh research evidence that registrants are not likely to reoffend. Ryan Spohn, Ph.D., of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, found that registrant reoffense rates are extraordinarily low. Other research has found that law enforcement practices aimed at disrupting the lives of registrants can increase the chance of reoffense. We know that people convicted of DUI are far more dangerous than registrants but you don’t see law enforcement knocking themselves out to monitor those folks. (I wonder: Is that because too many politicians have DUI offenses? Probably not. But I wonder).
So, the question is why would a law enforcement agency continue a practice that protects no one and in fact probably makes the community more dangerous?
We’re not concluding that it happens here, but in other places, law agencies do these checks so that they can beef up the reoffense statistics for registrants. That’s right — if you can catch enough people in technical violation of laws that are unreasonably restrictive, then you can push the reoffense numbers higher. Problem is, registrants snared in this way are not committing new sex crimes. They’re just easy targets for lazy law enforcement.
It can be a publicity stunt: You go around and find out that your own records were incorrect about an address, or that a registrant had to be at a hospital with his dying mom for four days, and you can nail them with violations and then announce to a gullible news media that you’re keeping people safe. It is a sorry performance, but people do fall for it.
The home-invasive visits also help law agencies attract grant funding (your tax dollars going to waste). Problem is, more tax dollars are wasted chasing the grant dollars, and people who are truly dangerous to the community escape notice while law enforcement is busy knocking on your door.
About that knock on the door: There is no law that requires you to answer your door, especially when the people trying to get in do not have a warrant.
More soon . . .