Lawful arrests or improper police action without probable cause?

Developments that are emerging in the aftermath of massive arrests effected by police officers in the nation’s capital last Friday are taking on a decided “we say, they say” hue.

We: As cops, we’re telling you that the cordon-and-arrest tactics we carried out against demonstrators in a confined downtown area on Inauguration Day were by the book and unobjectionable on any rational grounds.

They: Speaking collectively as those who were arrested, attorneys walking in their midst, reporters from a national media outlet who witnessed the police-citizen confrontation, and others, we unequivocally contend that the Washington, D.C., police department went too far in its actions. The arrests made and federal rioting charges levied being were flatly unconstitutional and without probable cause.

Indeed, that is quite a difference in opinion.

Which side will ultimately prevail?

In effect, the police surrounded people in one area and then made mass arrests, without issuing a dispersal order first. They say that doing so was lawful because those they were focused upon were already committing unlawful acts.

That position is dismissed out of hand by many people who were at the scene. A federal lawsuit against the police was filed the same day, contending that none of the individuals charged with rioting “would have appeared to the police to have been breaking the law.”

It is that alleged lack of any reasonable suspicion of ongoing criminal activity in individual cases that has especially galvanized opposition to the police action.

One attorney for many of those who were arrested stated that the government was simply exercising unbridled power “to crack down on dissent.”

And a number of witnesses contended that persons most immediately involved in inflicting property damage avoided arrest, with, alternatively, most of the arrested individuals being bystanders who were not participating in any demonstrations or committing acts of violence.

The case will undoubtedly command significant public attention going forward. We will be sure to pass along relevant details to our readers in Indiana and elsewhere.