• Ken Garten: Police tactics shatter family's privacy

  • The story of the Adlynn and Robert Harte family, as alleged by them in a lawsuit filed in the Johnson County Kansas District Court, is a harrowing one.

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  • The story of the Adlynn and Robert Harte family, as alleged by them in a lawsuit filed in the Johnson County Kansas District Court, is a harrowing one.
    One day last spring, the Hartes allege, a barrage of heavily armed law enforcement officers, dressed in SWAT gear, stormed their Leawood home.
    Robert Harte was forced at gun point to lie face down in his living room foyer by an officer armed with an assault rifle.
    Their terrified children, ages 7 and 13, came out of their rooms with their hands up.
    They were verbally disrespected and their house mercilessly ransacked for several hours by the law enforcement SWAT team.
    This raid was authorized under the auspices of a search warrant based upon what turned out to be notably flimsy evidence of suspected drug activity. However, the search turned up no drugs, and no evidence of criminality.
    The Hartes wanted answers. They were stonewalled. Only after filing suit did they find out what led to the gestapo-like raid on their home and gross disturbance of the sanctity of their home and their peace of mind.
    It seems that some eight months before the raid, Robert Harte and the two children visited a specialty store that sells indoor gardening supplies, and purchased a small amount of merchandise to grow vegetables in their basement. Unbeknownst to them, law enforcement officials were staking out the business and recorded the Harte vehicles license plate number.
    Based on this, on three separate occasions thereafter, law enforcement officials whisked away the weekly trash left in front of the Harte family home and picked through it searching for evidence. On one of those occasions a substance was found in their trash, which was purportedly believed, although mistakenly it turns out, to be marijuana.
    With this back drop, law enforcement officials managed to convince a judge to issue a warrant to search the Hartes home in their upscale Leawood neighborhood.
    This case leads to many questions, notions, and conclusions:
    First, it is disconcerting that in this nation founded upon the principal of basic fairness and human rights to its citizens, an innocent, law abiding family can be so wrongfully terrorized by overly zealous law enforcement.
    Still, it is a testament to the fairness of our society that when this happens, citizens who are so victimized may turn to the courts for answers and relief, and actually get it, and instances of police overreaching such as this become headline news, and are not everyday occurrences that get swept under the carpet with the basic human rights that are being violated.
    But I also wonder if such publicity and remedial justice may result when something like this happens to an intercity minority family with a lower level of financial and educational empowerment than the Hartes of Leawood, both of whom happen to be former CIA agents.
    Page 2 of 2 - Also, doesnt law enforcement have better things to do than to stake out the parking lot of a small hydroponic gardening store running license plate numbers and sift through bags of peoples garbage left looking for remnants of marijuana? Under the prevailing financial circumstances, this seems like a grossly imprudent misuse of law enforcement manpower.
    Keeping in mind that one of the most noteworthy problems in law enforcement these days is the refusal of citizens to cooperate with and assist police in their investigation of serious crime.
    Stories like this certainly dont help foster good relations and a spirit of cooperation between law enforcement and the people theyve sworn to serve and protect.
    Unfortunately, this is far from the first time that police tactics and policies in the war on drugs have severely alienated citizens, creating an us against them mentality for a segment of the population where violent crime and lack of public support and cooperation with law enforcement is often most rampant.
    Perhaps, however, this case of the suburban Leawood family can help bring awareness to these issues.
    Ken Garten is a Blue Springs attorney. Email him at krgarten@yahoo.com.

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