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A Cautionary Tale about Overreach

Updated on May 3, 2015

I was at a relative's house one afternoon, when across the street an incident happened that made me think I had left the United States of America and was now living in some other country. The electric utility company had to replace the meter of the family living across the street. Their van pulled up in the alley behind the family's house, out of their sight (but within ours). Instead of knocking on the front door (the cars were in the driveway, so someone was clearly home), the utility company tried to enter their back yard, only to discover that the gate was locked. The utility workers then took the back yard gate off its hinges and started to enter the yard. The family's teacup-sized dog, which was in the backyard, began barking, and a utility worker hit the dog about the time the father opened the back door and yelled, "What are you doing?" The dog then did what any normal dog would do, and bit the utility worker, who then kicked the dog.

Eventually, the police were called, and the officers were prepared to shoot the dog, but by then the family had the dog under control inside the house. The officers were prepared to back up the utility company against the family, until it was pointed out to them that the gate was off its hinges. Even then, the utility company claimed they knocked on the door and did not receive a response (which was untrue because we saw it). Finally, the police left without charging anyone, although the family did have to keep the dog under medical quarantine for thirty days at the veterinarian, at their own expense.

We reported the matter to our city councilman, who took the side of the police and the utility company against numerous eyewitnesses. Even after repeated calls and letters, when we finally visited the councilman in person, we were escorted off the premises for disturbing the peace (we were sitting quietly in the lobby of the councilman's office, making notes on a notepad).

Police Silhouette Gun Target
Police Silhouette Gun Target | Source

This occurred in a nice, established, upper-middle class neighborhood in a large, well-kept city. The problem is that this could happen to you. Just think about what could have happened: the utility company could have left the gate off its hinges, and any thief could have walked into the yard that was supposedly secure and made off with anything not fastened down, or could have broken into the house out of view of the street. Worse, a child could have been playing in the yard (remember the gate was locked and thus the child was secure), become frightened, and either run away or rushed into the street and been hit by a passing car, or assaulted or worse by one of the workers. The family pet could have been shot (the police officers were certainly prepared to do so), or even worse, a completely innocent person could have been shot by police, or a utility worker could have been shot by a family member who thought the worker was a thief. And all because the utility company workers were too lazy or uncaring to ring the doorbell!

For those of you who think that if you are innocent and obey the law, you will not get into trouble, think again. It is clear from this incident that you and your family and your pets are not safe in your own houses and yards. There are numerous ways this incident could have been much, much worse, even ending with one or more deaths while everyone is obeying the law except the utility workers (who never received any punishment). Or someone could have gone to jail for defending their property and family.

In any case, this incident should give you pause. The extraordinary amount of overreach that corporations seem to enjoy, and the possibilities for collusion with the police, is clearly illustrated in this incident, which is far from unique, I am sure. This is not just a case of bad judgment of a few persons, but an indication of just how far our rights are being eroded in the U.S. in favor of the convenience of large corporations, and how the police are biased in favor of the rights of the corporations over the rights of citizens.


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    Carl Richardson 2 years ago from Midwest USA

    I can hardly believe this story. I guess everyone, myself included, thinks something like this will only happen to somebody else.