The Texas Department of Public Safety will refrain from using traffic checkpoints following intense backlash after state police temporarily set up roadside stops in the Rio Grande Valley earlier this year.The checkpoints were part of a politically driven "surge" by DPS along the border that "included a beefed-up presence of boots on the ground and patrols in the air and water." Of course, border regions are among the safest in Texas and media quickly pointed out that, by the metrics through which DPS claimed to have chosen the Valley for its "surge," they'd have been more justified "surging" in the major metropolitan areas.
DPS Director Steven McCraw said Wednesday that his agency will not use road checkpoints "anywhere in the state" until Texas lawmakers give their blessing.
The roadblocks, though, were the aspect that raised the public's ire. Now, says McCraw, "Until we have legislative support to do those, we won't do them anywhere in the state."
DPS wasn't checking for immigration status at the stops, so the real motive was to use the roadblocks to check for DWI and run drug dogs around the cars. Noted the Chron, "For more than a decade, the Legislature has rejected proposals to allow roadside checkpoints, which typically target drunken drivers. During the last legislative session, San Antonio Deputy Police Chief Anthony Treviño urged a committee of lawmakers to allow permanent sobriety checkpoints in the state."
IMO, the border security meme is merely a way to get the camel's nose under the tent and if law enforcement is ever given authority to do roadblocks, they'll use them all over the state for all sorts of reasons. The only restraints will be imposed by limits on resources. Lots of police departments want to use them for DWI and already some use bogus license and registration checks as a fig leaf to justify them. The Legislature, though, has consistently rejected that tactic and should continue to do so.
spying on phone calls. An external enemy was replaced by enemies within - the drug war, drunk drivers, illegal immigration, terrorist "sleeper cells," etc. - and all of a sudden the government could justify just about any expansion of power.
That's why I find the backlash against DPS roadblocks and the agency's belated decision to reject them so heartening: It shows that, to some extent, at least, Americans have retained a semblance of a moral compass. Police roadblocks will surely be proposed again in the 84th Texas Legislature and, if they fail, again in the 85th. Those promoting expansion of government power and the diminution of individual rights will keep coming back to the well. But episodes like this make me hopeful that there's at least a chance to restrain the most abusive features of a totalitarian mindset that, 30 years ago, virtually every American abhorred.
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