Friday, September 07, 2007

Pretext stops by El Paso PD misdirect focus from crooks

Here's an absurd spin on police practices that I think violate drivers' rights, from KFOX TV in El Paso:
El Paso police conduct random license and insurance checkpoints around the city in hopes of making drivers more responsible.
What a ridiculous statement. How do random stops of drivers who've committed no offense make anyone more responsible? Aren't there actual crimes in El Paso to investigate?

Already more than 10% of El Pasoans have outstanding traffic warrants, mostly because they can't afford to pay expensive state surcharges on tickets. So the only tangible results of random checks would be 1) creating more unlicensed and uninsured drivers because of new surcharges, and 2) filling up the county jail with the 11% who have traffic warrants.

Does that make anyone safer? Of course not - not even the police believe that. These are pretext stops, mere excuses for police to look for evidence of other crimes when under the law they would have no legal reason to pry.

Checking drivers' license and insurance is just an excuse. Instead police want to look inside the car for weapons or drugs, see if the driver smells of alcohol, ask them questions that might incriminate , and generally perform a mini-spot investigation that IMO amounts to (what should be, but isn't) an illegal detention. (In my mind's eye I imagine the officer asking, "May I have your papers, comrade?")

Investigation techniques that rely on randomness will produce random results, while those that focus on crooks have a better chance to get crooks off the street. The vast majority of people stopped for no other reason than to "check" their license and insurance will have done nothing wrong. Indeed, in a real sense it's the El Paso Police Department that's in error.

While on the subject, it's always a good time for a reminder; feel free to just say "No" to to requests for police searches:


Anonymous said...

Sounds like an illegal detention to me. There is no warrant for an arrest, nor reasonable suspicion for a temporary detention. Why do you say it is not an illegal detention?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Doran, I say that because the courts out there let them do it - they used to do DUI checkpoints, those got litigated away, and (if memory serves) this was the "compromise" the court ultimately approved. I think it should be an illegal detention, but at this point they get to do it until a good lawyer proves they can't. best,

Unknown said...

I call them "fishing expeditions". I was subjected to many of these bogus actions before I turned 40. Of course, lying about drugs is the modus operandi of police in schools, so why not lie about searches to protect the public against these "dangerous drugs". Police are constantly using subterfuge to gain evidence and convictions. What is undercover work if not lying about your identity? Would we need this undercover work if gangs didn't have access to huge piles of cash due to drug, gambling and paid sex prohibitions? Is there legitimate reason for any undercover work? Before we go ballistic about counter terrorism we should note that there is a reason we have local and foreign terrorists in action and it isn't because our government is behaving like good little boy scouts.

Anonymous said...

When you took the driving test and signed the application to obtain your license you signed away certain rights in lieu of having the benefit NOT THE RIGHT to be issued a license and drive on the public roadway. Also, the transportation code allows any peace officer to stop and question a motorist as to the proof of a valid license and proof of insurance.