South Carolina Sheriff Adds Round-the-Clock Checkpoints to Growing Police State
February 18, 2012
By Brandon Turbeville
Even after such negative publicity several months ago, it appears the Kershaw County Sheriff's Office is not backing down in its attempt to establish what could only be described as a police state.
The last time I had the opportunity to write about Kershaw County, it was in regards to Sheriff Jim Matthews and his ridiculous characterization of local activist Jeff Mattox and his group, Kershaw County Patriots, as a potential threat to police. Mattox’s only crime was “Liking” an article on Facebook which subsequently ‘irritated’ the Sheriff (who was obviously watching Mattox’s Facebook page, one might add).
Sheriff Matthews’ alarmism went well beyond name calling, however, when he put his deputies -- as well as the County’s city police officers -- on high alert for “people who might want to hurt them.” Matthews explained to the local media that he was concerned that “some of these ideas exist here in Kershaw County,” – meaning, that some individuals might think it legitimate to defend themselves against police who are committing violence against them or violating their rights – the subject of the article that Mattox “Liked” on Facebook that so frightened Sheriff Matthews.
If you are not familiar with the history of the Kershaw County situation, please see my article, ,” for a breakdown of the incident and the background to what “S.C. Police on Alert After Political Activist 'Liked' Article on Facebook
" is currently happening in Kershaw County.
Ironically, it is Jeff Mattox who is once again the center of a controversy in Kershaw County surrounding the Sheriff’s over-the-top and aggressive brand of law enforcement.
At issue is Sheriff Matthews’ new massive round-the-clock checkpoint program, which Mattox has consistently opposed as both a citizen and activist. Many suspect that it was this initial opposition to the Sheriff’s program that made Mattox a target to begin with.
Nevertheless, in the midst of a world economic depression, and one which is being felt heavily in South Carolina, Matthews was able to procure
$350,000 from the Kershaw County council as well as a $190,000 grant from the S.C. Department of Public Safety for the purchase of two new “police chase cars and [the ability to] hire and equip two more deputies to staff a full-time DUI unit.”
Since then, Matthews has instituted one of the most aggressive DUI crackdown teams in the state. The program involves a cooperative effort between the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Department, the South Carolina Highway Patrol, and other local police departments in what amounts to a continual non-stop series of roadblocks all across the County. Mattox claims that even the Department of Natural Resources has been involved in the checkpoints.
According to Mattox, in Kershaw County, there is an unconstitutional checkpoint in progress at all hours of the day, somewhere in the county. Mattox estimates that the program conducts three to four checkpoints every single day in Kershaw County, which occur at all times of the day and night and may appear at any location.
Obviously, checkpoints in general are a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, Matthews’ new tactics amount to constant harassment of citizens modeled on some of the most effective tyrannies the world over.
Not surprisingly, however, the Kershaw County law enforcement community is refusing to admit there is anything wrong with the Gestapo-like tactics. In reference to the 18 DUI-related deaths in Kershaw County in 2008 compared to the 10 in 2011, after Matthews implemented his “guilty until proven innocent” checkpoint program, Lt. Scott Myers of the County’s Traffic Unit, proclaimed the program to be a great success. He stated, “I think they [DUI-related fatalities] would have stayed the same [without the new program]. I think they’ve been pretty consistent over the last few years.”
In reference to the opposition to the program expressed by many members of the community, Myers said, “Any apologies? No! We’re out here to make sure you get home every day and we want people to get to where they’re going as safe as possible and we’re gonna try to make sure that happens.”
Myers’ response is typical in the sense that law enforcement officials, although intended to be “public servants,” rarely ask permission from the public for anything they do and issue apologies even more scarcely than they ask for permission. It is also typical in that Myers exhibits the authoritarian view of government (law enforcement specifically) suggesting that the citizenry needs “Big Daddy government” to oversee their every move and force them to be safe from all dangers -- including themselves. Once again, we see how the American obsession with safety and security has overtaken the love of freedom and liberty.
Regardless of its effectiveness, however, the issue is whether or not the checkpoints are Constitutional, whether they violate rights, and, at the very least, whether or not they are worth the effort and the money they require in order to be administered.
Jeff Mattox raised some of these issues when he pointed out that the County’s DUI rate might not be something worth descending into a police state over. He pointed out that, when comparing the number of individuals killed in DUI-related crashes compared to the 60,000-plus population, the relative significance of the death-rate is a bit lower.
Mattox continued by stating, “If we do a little math, that’s .00623 percent of the population that died on highways. Due to drunk drivers and all. It’s not massive; like everybody’s out drinking and driving. It’s not as big a problem as he’s made it out to be.”
Mattox could have also pointed out that DUI-related statistics are often artificially inflated to show higher rates of DUI by virtue of the manner of their classification, much like unemployment statistics are deflated to show lower unemployment rates.
Generally speaking, if a crash occurs and either of the drivers were above the legal limit (which is quite low to begin with), regardless of who is truly at fault, the crash is classified as “DUI-related.” This, in itself, inflates the numbers of DUI-related deaths.
Another statistic that Mattox did not present, but could have presented, was the fact that, despite the fear-mongering over DUI-related deaths (18 in 2008) and the claims by the police that it is their job to act as elementary school-style safety directors, crime statistics from 2005
(apparently the most recently available) show that there were 14 rapes, 20 robberies, 155 assaults, and 265 burglaries in the County. Although no spate of crimes is worth turning into what Mattox has deemed “the police state of South Carolina,” one must wonder if the locals are not more concerned about the violent crimes and theft (805 of them to be exact) occurring in the County than they are with someone who has had three beers at the bar.
However, all of the above information is only the prelude to the current controversy. In fact, the police state checkpoints have received nothing but glowing reviews from the local and state media. It is actually the opposition to these checkpoints that is receiving such vitriolic treatment from the mainstream outlets and, obviously, the local establishment.
It was when Mattox and fellow activist, former Kershaw County Councilman, Larry Risvold, spoke to a social club in Cayce, South Carolina and expressed a plan to protest and confound the illegal checkpoints that the hand of the media came down upon them.
In the speech, which was recently posted to YouTube
, Mattox outlined his plan to fight back. He stated to the group, “We’re already planning our tactics against this. We’re going to do the same thing they’re doing to us; harass them. When we find out that there’s a checkpoint, we’re going to have a mass of people that go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. We’ve got to stop it.”
Mattox also stated that he is working with some young people and that they have plans to use social networking sites and cellphones to locate checkpoints and warn others of where they are set up. They will also use the technology to coordinate efforts to confound the harassment of innocent citizens, the only true harassment that is taking place. Mattox plans to put up yard signs that indicate where the checkpoints are located and assist in detouring locals who want to avoid them.
It was after these comments were posted on YouTube that WIS-TV posted a report with a completely misleading title, “Elgin councilman involved in plot to ‘harass’ Kershaw Co. Deputies
.” Although it took the term “harass” out of context and framed the title of the article as if it were revealing the existence of a terrorist sleeper cell involving government officials, the post was more or less a summary of the issue in question with the occasional subtle barb.The television report
, however, was an embarrassing exercise in what can only be described as yellow journalism. Here, the WIS-TV News crew made a concerted effort to point out that Larry Risvold had previously been arrested for DUI and that the rate of DUI-related deaths had decreased since the program was enacted. The reporter even went so far as to edit footage so it appeared that Mattox had changed his position on the DUI deaths.
A clip was shown of Mattox when he spoke to the County Council some time ago where he prefaced his comments by saying that the deaths were tragic and that no one wants to see these types of things occur. The video then cuts to Mattox stating that the Sheriff was blowing the DUI deaths out of proportion in an attempt to portray him as if he were reversing his previous position, which is clearly not the case. The first clip was actually taken from his testimony to the Kershaw County Council where he was opposing the enormous amount of money being spent on the new police state material.
In the presentation to the social club, Mattox stated that the Sheriff’s Department was exercising a “massive show of force and thuggery against the citizens.”
He continued, “It’s just a massive fishing expedition, catching all the fish in the sea, just to catch a few.”
Mattox also mentioned that the harassment of citizens is not limited to oppressive checkpoints. He claims that he has several individuals who have been illegally stopped, searched, and even arrested after having committed no crime.
Mattox recalled the story of one individual who had pulled off to the side of the road to take a cellphone call so as not to endanger himself or other drivers. Mattox claims this individual, identified only as “Ricky” in the video, was then approached by a plain-clothes investigator who demanded to see his license, registration, and proof of insurance; when “Ricky” questioned the officer, he was ordered to step outside of his vehicle where he was then placed under arrest for Disorderly Conduct. “Ricky” allegedly spent the night in jail before being released and the charges dropped.
Mattox claims this is not an isolated case and that he has at least “10 or 12 of these incidents” where the individual was doing “absolutely nothing wrong.”
Regardless of the outcome of these incidents, the fact is that the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Department is not only violating the Constitution and the Fourth Amendment, but doing so with a vengeance. Clearly, something must be done in Kershaw County and Law Enforcement must be brought under control. Obviously, Sheriff Matthews is not going to return to the reason-based community on his own and, apparently, neither are his officers. It is time the people of Kershaw County stop hiding in their homes and start making their voices heard.
As Mattox himself stated, “They’re going to continue their thug action until people stand up and say no.”
Feel free to make your own voice heard by contacting the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Department. Their contact information is listed below:
Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office
Sheriff Jim Matthews
Source -- http://www.activistpost.com/2012/02/south-carolina-sheriff-adds-round-clock.html