STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Texas Police Are Alarmingly Sensitive
By Philippe Gastonne - September 21, 2015
Earlier this week, school resource officers at MacArthur High School were notified by the Irving ISD officials about a student in possession of a suspicious device. The student showed the device to a teacher, who was concerned that it was possibly the infrastructure for a bomb. School resource officers questioned the student about his intentions and the reasons why he brought the device to school. The student only would say it was a clock and was not forthcoming at that time about any other details.
Having no other information to go on, and taking into consideration the device's suspicious appearance and the safety of the students and staff at MacArthur High School, the student was taken into custody for possessing a hoax bomb. Under Texas law, a person is guilty of possessing a hoax bomb if he possesses a device that is intended to cause anyone to be alarmed or a reaction of any type by law enforcement officers.
Following standard procedure the student was handcuffed for his safety and for the safety of the officers and was transported to a juvenile processing area of the police station. Recognizing additional facts were required, the student was released to his parents, so further investigation could be completed. The follow-up investigation revealed the device apparently was a homemade experiment, and there is no evidence to support the perception he intended to create alarm. No charges will be filed and the case is considered closed. – Irving (Tx) Police Department statement, Sept 16, 2015
Last week's much-publicized and completely unnecessary arrest of young Ahmed Mohamed brought to light an alarmingly (pun intended) broad Texas law against so-called "hoax bombs." The statute is an open invitation for police to detain anyone for anything.
In Texas, you are a criminal if you possess any device that causes "alarm or reaction of any type" by the police. By this standard, it is a crime to call the police on your telephone. Doing so will cause a police operator to hear a ring. As soon as he or she reacts to that ring by, say, answering it, you will be guilty.
The Irving Police Department's own statement reveals the macabre, Orwellian reactions of both school administrators and police in Ahmed's case.
"The student would only say it was a clock and was not forthcoming at the time about any other details."
Well, yes. That is because it was a clock. He had no other details to give.
"Following standard procedure the student was handcuffed for his safety and for the safety of the officers."
The concern for everyone's safety was laudable but limited. At no point did anyone call demolition experts to defuse the possible bomb. Why not? Because they could see the device was a clock, not a bomb.
"The follow-up investigation revealed the device apparently was a homemade experiment."
This is false. Ahmed had already told everyone who would listen that it was a homemade experiment. The follow-up investigation revealed nothing new.
Fortunately, the police did not file charges against Ahmed. If they believe in equal justice, they will file charges against the school authorities.
Who brought in the police? School administrators. They realized the device was not dangerous. Otherwise, they would have evacuated the school. They called the police and caused alarm anyway, thereby violating the hoax bomb statute.
Ahmed Mohamed may have the last laugh. Everyone from President Obama to Mark Zuckerberg praised his invention and offered help.
The next person arrested under this ludicrous law may not be so lucky.