It’s hard to read Barry Friedman’s criminal-justice system indictment Unwarranted without being distracted by the chasm between the context in which it was written and the one in which it now appears ... Fortunately, Mr. Friedman has framed his argument in a way that may even carry more utility in our Trumpified age. 'The real problem with policing is not the police,' he writes in a preface dated June 2016. 'It is us.' Until the citizenry takes active responsibility for the rules that govern law enforcement’s unique powers of surveillance and force, we will continue to see widespread injustice and the erosion of our fundamental rights ... This is where Mr. Friedman runs up against a paradox that he can’t quite power through. Isn’t the intersection between democracy and policing precisely where some of the worst policies have come from? ... He confronts these limitations in a concluding chapter that contains more than a hint of exasperation...But you need not agree with Mr. Friedman’s solution or his overall civil-libertarian bent to find Unwarranted an important book about the 21st-century rules of engagement for counter-terrorism, police work, surveillance and crime prevention ... Unwarranted shakes us from what we’ve allowed ourselves to accept.
...looks beyond the lethal use of force at the many other ways the Fourth Amendment protection against 'unreasonable searches and seizures' has been ignored or stretched in the name of public safety ... Friedman’s case — illuminated with stories of hapless civilians encountering excesses of force or surveillance — is not that police should be denied the best tools, but that there should be clear rules ... Friedman, who is a constitutional lawyer, puts much of the blame on courts for failing to demand that police show probable cause and obtain warrants, and more generally for letting police invade our privacy in new ways without a prerequisite of open, democratic debate. But the ultimate culprit is us.
For a book directed to general readers, Unwarranted goes fairly deeply into legal intricacies, but Friedman’s prose is crystal clear and conversational in tone. Case examples give the book its narrative meat, and some of them are doozies ... Friedman’s purpose in Unwarranted isn’t simply to spur public awareness or to argue that the courts ought to take a tougher line in protecting our rights. On the contrary, he thinks we’ve relied far too much on the idea that the courts are our natural guardians against abusive law enforcement. That’s the people’s job in a democracy, he argues, and the people have let the job slide for too long.