Bellingham Police Department Launches Anti-Crime Team

Bellingham’s finest created a five-person police team dedicated to warrant arrests, stakeouts, sting operations, and plainclothes detective work.  The team’s goal is to reduce  — and follow up on — the number of 911 calls the police department receives.  “Our purpose is basically to do what patrol doesn’t have time to do,” Sgt. Keith Johnson said.  “If we can spend some quality time and solve problems rather than deal with them every time they flare up, then the community benefits and patrol benefits.”

http://www.bellinghamherald.com/onpatrol/story/1018782.html

My opinion?  Prepare to see more unlawful arrests . . .

The Anti-Crime Team (ACT) appears to be a proactive sub-unit of the Bellingham Police Department.  In short, ACT provides additional investigations/policing of our neighborhoods.  These activities include serving bench warrants, police interviews, stakeouts, etc.  In other words, ACT is involved in community caretaking.

Know this, however: “community caretaking” is, in reality, a legal term; and establishes an exception to rule that officers MUST have a warrant to arrest citizens.  ACT’s proactive approach could create a risk of abuse to the community caretaking exception of the warrant requirement.  Under WA law, and in light of the risk of abuse, courts must be cautious in applying the community caretaking exception to the warrant requirement.  In order to avoid abuse of the exception, community caretaking searches/seizures must be strictly divorced from criminal investigations.  Also, the community caretaking function exception may not be used as a pretext for a criminal investigation.

Given ACT’s proactive approach to neighborhood policing as a “community caretaking” function, we could see an increase in unlawful arrests.

The solution?  Be aware of your Constitutional rights when approached/questioned by police officers.  Be cooperative.  Avoid making unnecesssary statements.  Ask for an attorney.