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By DANIEL BLACKBURN
When San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Murphy responded to a “shots fired” call in April 2008, he decided en route that he was going to make an arrest.
He did far more than that. Murphy and other deputies made an unwarranted entry into a home, and then into a locked gun safe. Murphy's uncensored, darkly disturbing observations and behavior following his Code-3 arrival at the rural home of longtime SLO County resident Matt Hart were picked up by Murphy's and other deputies’ own recorders. Those recordings provide a rare, frighteningly revealing, behind-the-scenes perspective of how one local law enforcement agency views the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and other laws its personnel are sworn to uphold.
Sheriff’s spinner Rob Bryn declined to confirm the identities of any of the deputies appearing or heard in the recordings, or to discuss any aspect of the Hart home invasion. So we've done that for you. (Bryn, ever the public servant, eventually stopped responding to e-mails from a KCCN.tv reporter.)
Deputies’ deportment in the field as exhibited by their own words, as well as their plainly audible efforts to fabricate justifications for their actions, are lamentable. Local county prosecutors’ subsequent abuse of power, wielded in a cavalier, clumsy, and transparent effort to avoid a lawsuit, also is troubling.
But in the larger scheme of things, it is the systematic dismantling of the Fourth Amendment by over-zealous cops and an enabling judiciary that should be a cause of concern for every American citizen. Incredibly, Hart's case may be less of an anomaly than it appears.
The question is: Should law enforcement officers like Deputy Darren Murphy be allowed to make day-to-day, life-changing decisions regarding the fate of law-abiding citizens?
Watch. Listen. And then you be the judge.