Early this month, the sheriff of Palm Beach County, Fla., announced a new, Orwellian “violence prevention” program designed to pit neighbors against each other by having people anonymously call the cops on anyone who doesn’t like the government or takes a picture of a bridge.
Why? Because people who voice their disapproval of the way their leaders are representing them might be terrorists, the kind of people who’d shoot up a school or set off a bomb at a public event or important landmark.
The local program was to receive $1 million in State funds, apportioned by the Legislature, to train deputies, mental health professionals and case workers to respond whenever someone called the 24-hour citizen hotline, so that they could then visit alleged terrorists, at their homes, unannounced, with the goal of diverting their latent violent behavior before they commit an atrocious act.
A bonus: The sheriff’s office would have dirt on people reported to the hotline, stacking the deck against supposed “terrorists” by exposing them to unwarranted scrutiny and making otherwise-innocuous citizens look like festering threats, if ever they should come before the law for any reason.
At the time, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said this:
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?”
Neighbors helping neighbors, eh? East Germans lent each other a similar helping hand during the Cold War, when the Stasi state security ministry recruited regular people to rat out their neighbors and coworkers for harboring anti-government sentiment.
But folks in Palm Beach eager to turn on their fellow man may have to go back to calling 911 or the police dispatch line, thanks to Republican Governor Rick Scott’s recent veto of the $1 million in State money originally earmarked to subsidize the $3.2 million tattling scheme.
Of course there’s a twist: Scott didn’t veto the Legislature’s earmark on principle; in fact, he called the prevention program “a very well-intended project.” His reason, rather, was that Florida’s taxpayers as a whole were being asked to support a program that “benefits” only the residents of Palm Beach County.
With nearly a third of his funding gone, Bradshaw has said his department is reconsidering deploying the program at all. That’s welcome news to residents who were outraged about the plan — not only on Constitutional grounds, but for its outright stupidity.
“Kill this thing before it grows like a cancer,” an unnamed Tea Party supporter told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
The idea may not be dead nationwide, though. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is enabling local enforcement agencies to do, by proxy, what Congress, to the disappointment of George W. Bush, forbade it from doing upon its creation in 2001: acting as an info dump for Stasi-style tipsters. Through nearly $500 million in local “urban area security” grants last year, DHS has primed local agencies, including the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, to mine citizens’ paranoia for information about who’s got it in for their government.