Find of the Month

June 2017 - Search Warrants

In 1894, eleven Chinese businessmen wrote the following letter to Seattle’s Board of Police Commissioners to express concerns about illegal property searches:


The undersigned, Chinese merchants of the City of Seattle, respectfully represent that it is the habit and custom of some of the detectives on the Police force of the City of Seattle, to enter their residences and places of business, at all hours of the day and night, and without warrant, to search through their premises.

We would respectfully call your attention to the 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which reads as follows –

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, paper and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

And also to Section 7, Article 1, of the Constitution of the State of Washington, which reads as follows –

“No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.”

We are advised that both the provisions of the Constitution of the United States and the provisions of the Constitution of State of Washington, are being violated by these officers. We desire to be law abiding residents of the State of Washington, and ask that your Honorable Body instruct the detectives on the police force that they at least respect these Constitutional provisions.

The Board apparently asked Police Chief Bolton Rogers to look into the complaint. About three weeks later, he reported to the Board that “I have been unable to find any case where an officer of this department has entered a Chinese house and searched the same without having a proper search warrant with him.”