Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw’s $1 million dollar hotline characterizes dissent as extremist threat
A new $1 million dollar program led by Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw aimed at “violence prevention” is encouraging Floridians to report their neighbors for making hateful comments about the government, a chilling reminder of how dissent is being characterized as an extremist threat.
“Bradshaw plans to use the extra $1 million to launch “prevention intervention” units featuring specially trained deputies, mental health professionals and caseworkers. The teams will respond to citizen phone calls to a 24-hour hotline with a knock on the door and a referral to services, if needed,” reports the Palm Beach Post.
Bradshaw makes it clear that the kind of behavior which could prompt a visit from the authorities includes anti-government political statements that may be deemed a prelude to violent action.
“We want people to call us if the guy down the street says he hates the government, hates the mayor and he’s gonna shoot him,” Bradshaw said. “What does it hurt to have somebody knock on a door and ask, ‘Hey, is everything OK?’”
The program will also include “public service announcements to encourage local citizens to report their neighbors,” reports the newspaper.
The program has sparked concerns that the hotline could violate civil liberties or even be exploited to pursue personal vendettas, with Bradshaw acknowledging that, “anyone in a messy divorce or in a dispute with a neighbor could abuse the hotline,” and that it will prompt “frivolous complaints.”
That caveat is all the more chilling given the research of Florida State University’s Robert Gellately into how Germans under Hitler denounced their neighbors and friends not because they genuinely believed them to be a security threat, but because they expected to selfishly benefit from doing so, both financially, socially and psychologically via a pavlovian need to be rewarded by their masters for their obedience.
“How are they possibly going to watch everybody who makes a comment like that? It’s subjective,” said Liz Downey, executive director of the Palm Beach County branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “We don’t want to take away people’s civil liberties just because people aren’t behaving the way we think they should be.”
The program is set to go ahead unless it is vetoed by Governor Rick Scott.