Thursday, December 05, 2013

Texas DPS won't use roadblocks sans legislative approval

Good news, via the Houston Chronicle ("State police to halt the use of checkpoints," Dec. 5):
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.

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 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.

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 TreviƱo 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.

As an aside: Lately, Grits has come to believe that the end of the Cold War and the fall of communism was a huge factor in spurring US law enforcement and the courts to gut the Fourth Amendment and expand these sort of police-state tactics, which were once considered signature features of totalitarian states. As long as we had a Red Menace to compare ourselves to, law enforcement and politicians refrained from this sort of stuff because the public was so opposed to communism that adopting such tactics was considered un-American. The fall of communism meant the public no longer had a reference point for how far is too far. That freed up the government to pursue totalitarian tactics themselves, from roadblocks at the local level to the NSA 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.

See related Grits posts:


Brian said...

The decent thing for Mr. McCraw to say would be: his agency will not use road checkpoints "anywhere in the state" *even if* Texas lawmakers give their blessing.

Anonymous said...

The end of the Cold War had nothing at all to do with the current Police State. The government realized a long time ago that the growing income disparity would eventually cause civil unrest and have simply taken a proactive stance to limit participation by the masses. Every policing agency in all large cities have been expanding their forces for the past two decades. So much so, that many agencies are hiring officers who would be declared unfit for employment at fast-food restaurants because they couldn't pass the stringent background checks:,0,1072347.story

The fact is the government is just hiring bodies who won't question their orders when the mass civil unrest begins.

Anonymous said...

"Follow the Money." It was a use or lose situation. DPS needed to spend money it hadn't spent so they set up the roadblock operation instead of having to return unspent monies to the taxpayers. Find out how much this operation cost and where the money came from.

Anonymous said...

Brian, the man was chosen because he doesn't question political instructions. DPS used to be an agency free of ridiculous political influence. Not anymore. Republicans use this agency as a tool to highlight and emphasize their political agendas such as the "DMZ" border area. They are now branching off into regulatory schemes propagated by Republican legislators. There are too many good folks there with little experience, even at the administrative level, to question the long term impact or national implications of their orders. Their policy is set by the Capitol. They merely fill in the gaps with skewed stats and unrealistic probabilities. And lately, there seems to be a corruption problem developing.

Anonymous said...

Grits makes a deep point about the US not having a worse "other" (like the Soviet Union) to use as a way to help define itself as a better society.

In my view the Cold War institutions (CIA, NSA, military-insudtrial complex)that were externally directed against the Soviet Union were not dissolved upon the end of the Cold War - but were gradually redirected against the American people under the pretext of combatting "terrorism." These deeeply burrowed institutions basically wanted to survive, and survive they have. Currently it is no exaggeration to say both civilian police forces and federal military forces are being slowly being repurposed to see American citizens as "the enemy."

Talk about a de-evolution away from the nation's First Principles!!

Ironically, were the Founding Fathers to live in the present, they would doubtless be surveilled and profiled as potential subversives. Those who support liberty, limited government, and states rights are becoming the objects of statist action. Folks with Ron Paul bumper stickers get harassed by cops all the time. We live in times of inversion: the good is called bad, the bad is extolled as good.

In my view is that the U.S.A. is in a real self-created pickle now.

Anonymous said...

To 9:18 AM

Ironically, were the Founding Fathers to live in the present, they would doubtless be surveilled and profiled as potential subversives."

Or they would be murdered by the state as Timothy McVeigh was...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

McVeigh was no hero, 11:39, and if he was a patriot then his version of patriotism was bereft of nobility and humanity and nothing I'd ever want to be associated with. He was a mass murderer. You don't do yourself or anyone else any favors by holding him out as a model for anything.

rodsmith said...

I'm with grits here. he was a terrorist. That's what anyone who target's civilians and children is.

Our founders if they were here. Would be picking their guns back up and heading for Washington to conduct a good old fashioned necktie party!

Anonymous said...

As bright and informed as you are, you miss the significance of what McVeigh did by miles. Our government incinerated 3 dozen children and some 40 adults then covered up their crimes on national television with millions of viewers. Yet only one man was brave enough to confront the tyranny and give the government a dose of their own medicine.

Had the public came to McVeigh's defense there would be no need for blogs such as this. We could have straightened this country out within a single year.

"I'm with grits here. he was a terrorist. That's what anyone who target's civilians and children is."

Now that's an hilarious statement in light that he's defending a government that targeted civilians and children.

A decade from now all of you will be wishing you had the opportunity to defend the nation from tyranny. Some of us have an uncanny ability to see what's occurring, while others won't see it until it's too late to confront it.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:11, McVeigh didn't target the individuals responsible for the atrocity for which he was supposedly retaliating, he murdered innocents (including children) just like the feds did in Waco. He wasn't "defending" anything. He was a mass murderer and a nutjob, which is why the public (rightly) failed to "come to his defense." If you think you'll convince anyone here otherwise with the piss-poor arguments offered above, you've definitely got another think coming.