Tag Archive for: disease

Everyone, especially well-informed writers, know that cops must obtain a search warrant prior to searching people and places, when doing so without permission. And, to convince a judge to sign off on a search warrant officers must present the probable cause they believe exists.

Those same officers may not force or coerce a suspect to confess or otherwise incriminate themselves. Defendants in criminal cases are entitled to a trial by jury and they must be provided an attorney to represent them if they cannot afford to hire one. They are entitled to have the case against them proved beyond a reasonable doubt, or not. They may not be properly imprisoned, and they must be prosecuted under a true law. One that, without a doubt, outlines an illegal act.

In other words, the hands of the police are tied up quite nicely when it comes to protections of the rights of citizens. Doesn’t mean those rights are not occasionally violated (intentionally, or not), but these hard and fast rules are spelled out in back and white.

The above, however, are the rules pertaining to police officers and their actions relating to criminal cases and searche. They also pertain to the rights of the targets of those investigations. But how do those laws affect the CDC and their quest to safeguard the world against the threat of  disease and/or bioterrorism?

Here’s an eye-opener!

Under the police power authority granted  by the constitution, public health officials may search and seize without probable-cause and/or a warrants. They’re legally permitted to take enforcement actions without court hearings. In fact, courts defer to the discretion of public health officials.

Public health officials have an enormous amount of flexibility when it comes to creating and designing and implementing enforcement strategies and planning. Here’s the icing on the cake—they must only prove their cases by a “more probable than not” standard. And this holds up when or if the actions are challenged in court.

The doctrine of state “police power” was adopted in early America from English common law principles. Those ideologies directed the restriction of an individual’s rights when needed for safeguarding of the common good (stop the spread of disease or other serious health and safety issues).

Today, when we hear the phrase “police powers” we tend to think of the authority granted to police officers that permits them to legally arrest criminal suspects. However, “police powers” is not a term that’s equal with criminal enforcement tactics, techniques, and procedures. Instead, the police powers granted, by law, to the CDC and other public health agencies, including federal, local, and state public health officials, authorizes them to develop and enforce civil self-protection rules.

In short, public health police power allows each state to enforce isolation and quarantine, health, and inspection laws. And, simply put, this is to help prevent the spread of disease.

Now, all of this does not mean there are gun-toting, handcuff-bearing CDC cops who break down doors to haul out family members who’re suffering from a bad and highly contagious case of Ebolasyphhlianthraxiosis. But feel free to assume that the CDC is mindful of the threats to our borders regarding bioterrorism. After all, who knows what could slip onto our shores under the cover of darkness.

Still, when health officials deal with folks who need arresting or non-compliant confinement, they call on the local, state, or federal law enforcement officials for assistance.

“Police powers of the states are an expression of civil authority.” ~ National Institute of Health


The National Institute of Health (NIH) went on to state that police powers are a state’s ability to control, regulate, or prohibit non-criminal behavior. Health officials, they say, may use these police powers to mandate treatment, prohibit or direct a particular conduct, or to detain and isolate, which, ironically, is incarceration of a quasi-criminal nature. And they can hold you for as long as they deem necessary. Remember, too, the earlier mention that courts typically defer to public health officials and do not intervene.

Separation of civil authority from law enforcement

To sum up:

  • Public health police powers are an expression of the civil, not criminal, authority of the state.
  • Criminal and civil enforcement of laws must remain separate. Public health officials should never become a part of criminal law enforcement because doing so would restrict their capabilities to “act now” in the event of a bioterrorism attack, or in the event of an outbreak of a contagious and deadly disease. They’d then be subjected to criminal law regarding search and seizure, probable cause, and even safeguarding a person’s presumption of innocence.
  • CDC officials are NOT police officers.
  • CDC officials have the power to isolate and quarantine.
  • Public health officials and law enforcement work hand-in-hand, especially in cases of bioterrorism.

Per the CDC:

Isolation and Quarantine

Isolation and quarantine help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease.

  • Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.
  • Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

In addition to serving as medical functions, isolation and quarantine also are “police power” functions, derived from the right of the state to take action affecting individuals for the benefit of society.

Ah, San Francisco, the City by the Bay. The Golden Gate City. Or simply, “The City” to many locals. It’s where a beautiful but extremely dense fog rolls in to make the entire Golden Gate Bridge disappear within a matter of seconds.

It’s where tourists gather by the thousands to see the sights, hear the sounds of sea lions barking, cable car bells dinging, and music provided by numerous street performers. It’s where the delicious odors of fried and broiled seafood waft across Fisherman’s Wharf.

The scenery is gorgeous, the temperatures are in the 60s, and it’s paradise where the scent of human urine and feces permeate the air with a stench otherwise found in a construction site Porta-John in mid-July during the hottest heatwave on record.

How bad is the urine problem in San Francisco?

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders explained just how bad the the problem was in a 2015 column, via the American Spectator:

“How bad is the urine situation in San Francisco? This is not a joke: Monday night, a light pole corroded by urine collapsed and crashed onto a car, narrowly missing the driver. The smell is worse than I have known since I started working for The Chronicle in 1992. It hits your nose on the BART escalator before you reach Market Street. That sour smell can bake for blocks where street people sleep wrapped in dirty blankets.”

And three years later, to make matters worse—feces. Piles and piles of human feces along with thousands of discarded used needles. All of these lovely tidbits can be readily found on the sidewalks in tourists areas, around schools, and in other public areas.

Mohammed Nuru, director of the city’s Department of Public Works, says his crews, in the month of November, 2017 alone, cleaned up a staggering amount of this …

1,498 requests to clean feces, 6,211 needles, and 51 tons of debris from homeless camps.

An NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit surveyed 153 blocks of The City. The area examined includes tourist spots like Union Square, major hotel chains, City Hall, various schools, public playgrounds, and even a police station.

During the survey, investigators witnessed a group of young school children walking and dodging discarded hypodermic needles scattered along the walkway. A child’s mother stated she often has to pull her daughter out of the way to prevent her from stepping in human waste left on the sidewalk.

This single investigation revealed 100 drug needles and more than 300 piles of feces.



Needless to say, along with human waste and filth comes a plethora of disease. In addition to the obvious, even dried fecal matter can pose risks such as rotavirus, an intestinal infection that could be deadly for young children.

In the affected areas, city crews steam-clean the streets and walkways each day.

Poop Patrol: Slip-Slidin’ Away

Now, enter two patrol officers who are in hot foot pursuit of an armed murderer.

They catch the guy and the arrest goes to the sidewalk. They tussle with the killer, rolling around and struggling to apply cuffs. He’s as strong as an angry bull.

In the meantime, Officer One is unable to use his feet to help push and pin the suspect to the ground because his shoes are sliding and slipping in some sort of gooey mess. Officer Two feels three sharp pricks to his right arm and another to his left thigh. When they finally gain control of the suspect they realize their hands had contacted dried feces on the concrete walk. Then the stench coming from Officer One’s shoes and pants legs revealed a fresher source. And those sharp pricks to the skin … they’d fallen on an assortment of scattered needles.

Not only do SFPD officers have the typical worries of being punched, cut, stabbed, shot, etc., they now have to remain on high alert for unexpected poop bombs and needles. In fact, there is so doggone much of the stuff spattered, scattered, and delicately piled across the City by the Bay that San Francisco software engineer Jenn Wong mapped the city’s “crappiest” neighborhoods. Her project is called Human Wasteland.

The Poop Map


Supervisor Jane Kim recently requested an additional $2.5 million for additional street cleaning. Her request was rejected by the board. 

San Francisco Night Windows

I believe Poet Robert Penn Warren had an idea of what was to come when he wrote San Francisco Night Windows. I say this because, well, check out the last line …

San Francisco Night Windows

“I would speak honestly and of a full heart;
I would speak surely for the tale is short,
And the soul’s remorseless catalogue
Assumes its quick and piteous sum.
Think you, hungry is the city in the fog
Where now the darkened piles resume

*Source – NBC Bay Area News, and recent trips to San Francisco.