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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Thursday, January 09, 2003
12:56 PM

Former Georgia GOP Congressman Bob Barr is a reliable skeptic about police powers, as he shows in a Washington Times column about Fairfax County's Alcohol Pre-Emption program. Barr, like some others, compares it to the movie Minority Report:

In last year's mega-hit movie "Minority Report," starring Tom Cruise in a mid-21st-century sci-fi thriller, D.C. police identify persons who have not yet committed a crime, but who, based on premonition evidence are going to commit a crime, and then swoop in and arrest these pre-criminals before they can carry out their dastardly deeds.

A fine movie; I saw it and liked it. Well, it isn't even 2054 (the year in which the movie is set), and already, Washington-area police — in this case, Fairfax County, Va.'s finest — are taking the movie to heart, and putting it into practice now.

Seems the local constabularies are getting bored actually waiting for crimes to be committed, and then, based on actual evidence, practicing good police work and arresting the perpetrators...

The department's explanation that it is against the law to be intoxicated in a public place (including a bar), is nonsense, even if, in a hyper-technical sense, correct. Someone perhaps ought to remind Fairfax County that bars actually exist as places in which people drink alcohol; it's not only legal, it's encouraged. This actually is a frightening scenario that one hopes is nipped in the bud. Not only is this sort of Gestapolike behavior chilling in the extreme, but if condoned or encouraged, will find its way into other areas of detaining or arresting people for potential criminal behavior.

The Post's Marc Fisher also weighs in:

• In Reston and Herndon, Fairfax County police, perhaps inspired by "Minority Report," the futuristic flick in which cops stop crimes before they happen, served up a holiday season surprise: Officers went into bars and restaurants to question, test and arrest patrons who imbibed too much -- even if they caused no disturbance and had no intention of driving....

A trade organization representing bars terms this an "anti-alcohol jihad." Oh, please. Talk to police officers who've had to respond to wrecks caused by people who insist on driving loaded, and it's easy to see where this crackdown came from. But raids on people out for a pleasant evening are no answer.

Catch drunks before they kill, but not before they're served their burger.

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