Starting Saturday night, officers will check drivers’ ID and turn away any who don’t have a “legitimate purpose” in the area – a plan that has drawn swift criticism from civil liberties groups.
“The Constitution and the Bill of Rights should not become the next victim of the street violence,” said Johnny Barnes, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union for the National Capital Area. “This plan will treat every resident of that area the way criminals are treated.”
The checkpoints come as police try to combat a spike in the number of homicides, which rose 7 percent in the city in 2007 after several years of decline.
Uh…haven’t Cathy Lanier and Adrian Fenty been Police Chief and Mayor, respectively, from January 2007 to today? I think I see a correlation here.
And, as I have noted before, guns are illegal in Washington, D.C.
Most of last weekend’s slayings occurred in the 5th Police District in the city’s northeast section, where authorities plan to set up the checkpoints. Already this year, the police district has had 22 killings – one more than in all of 2007.
“The reality is, this is a neighborhood that has been the scene of many violent crimes, and something had to be done,” D.C. police spokeswoman Traci Hughes said.
Because your department is too inept to police an area. Do the officers still have the mentality of “we don’t go down to those neighborhoods unless we get called”?
But the initiative has raised the ire of the ACLU, which plans to watch what happens with the checkpoints before deciding on any legal action.
Officers will stop motorists traveling through the main thoroughfare of Trinidad – a neighborhood of mostly tidy two-story brick rowhouses that includes Gallaudet University and is near the National Arboretum.
Police will ask motorists to show proof that they live in the area. If they do not have proof, drivers must explain whether they have a reason to be in the neighborhood, such as a doctor’s appointment or a church visit.
Police will only search cars if they observe the presence of guns or drugs, officials said. Anyone who does not cooperate will be arrested.
Responding to the threat of a legal challenge, interim D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles cited a similar case involving New York City police, who once stopped motorists in the Bronx at random hours, mostly in the evening, to curtail drive-by shootings, drugs and robberies. Neighborhood residents and commercial vehicles were allowed to pass, while others were turned away.
A federal appeals court ruled in 1996 that those police tactics were constitutional, saying that the checkpoints “were reasonably viewed as an effective mechanism” to reduce drive-by shootings.
In a Supreme Court case from 2000, however, justices struck down random roadblocks used in Indianapolis to screen people for illegal drugs, ruling that they were an unreasonable invasion of privacy. The high court’s majority concluded that law enforcement alone is not a good enough reason to stop innocent motorists.
Wow, nice to see the bloody D.C. Attorney General doesn’t know about Supreme Court precedents.
“It’s needed and it’s not needed,” said Matthew Simmons, 79, as he sat on the porch outside his rowhouse. Simmons said the checkpoints wouldn’t necessarily deter crime. He said a better solution would be to have more consistent police patrols.
What?! That’s crazy talk!