Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw's counter-terror tattletale program C-PAT (Community Partners Against Terrorism) first drew widespread attention in late April, with news of a $1 million grant of state money for "Prevention Intervention" units to act preemptively on tips gathered from the program.
C-PAT's soft opening was in mid-April, courtesy of YouTube, with a video that begins with a prelude about the 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt, in which a Senegalese street merchant tipped off police about a smoking vehicle. One minute in, Bradshaw appears on-screen to announce that "history repeats itself" and that "one person's observation and the ability to act on instinct that something is 'not quite right' can save hundreds and even thousands of lives." The full, Orwellian substance of the program is outlined in the video's final six minutes.
C-PAT is creepy enough, but it's just the input. "Prevention Intervention" is the outreach, where the queasy rubber hits the road.
Touting PI to the Palm Beach Post, Bradshaw pointed to the Newtown and Aurora
Second Amendment actions shooting sprees and told the paper "there were people who said they knew ahead of time that there was a problem. If the neighbor of the mom in Newtown had called somebody, this might have saved 25 kids' lives."
Fair enough. But Bradshaw jumped the shark when he told the paper "We want people to call us if the guy down the street says he hates the government, hates the mayor and he's gonna shoot him. What does it hurt to have somebody knock on a door and ask, 'Hey, is everything OK?' "
Bradshaw said the PI teams would include "specially trained deputies, mental health professionals and caseworkers." What could possibly go wrong?
Plenty, according to critics in the mental health and legal professions and on the political left, right, and ozone layer.
"How are they possibly going to watch everybody who makes a comment like that? It's subjective," Liz Downey, executive director of the Palm Beach County branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, told the Post. "We don't want to take away people's civil liberties just because people aren't behaving the way we think they should be."
In an editorial titled "A Stasi for Palm Beach," the very conservative Washington Times advised tourists to "book a trip to Palm Beach County, Fla., to see what paranoia looks like."
The conspiracy-mongers at PrisonPlanet.com were on the case, labeling Bradshaw's plan "a chilling reminder of how dissent is being characterized as an extremist threat." PrisonPlanet's two cents were predictable, but even a busted clock is right twice a day.
The most chilling comment we saw on the Bradshaw plan came from West Palm Beach attorney Jim Green, who litigates for the ACLU. "Have I got a comment for you!" he emailed us. "Read it and weep!"
He attached a copy of his January 2010 appellate brief in the case of Marrilou Forrest, who in 2006 was shot and killed by Bradshaw's deputies when they tried to Baker Act her.
Green lost the appeal, and the deputies were granted summary judgment. But clearly, Green doesn't have a very high opinion of the Sheriff's skill with the mentally ill.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.
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