Social Question

Seek's avatar

Bizarre police/state trooper activity. Are we becoming a police state?

Asked by Seek (34729points) March 20th, 2010

Last night, I was driving home with my husband and son after picking him up from work. It was about 6:00, maybe 6:30. Plainly still rush hour. We come up to the main road leading to our neighborhood – a U.S. Highway and a 6-lane road.

All of a sudden, there are cones everywhere and a sign proclaiming “Roadway Safety Check. Prepare to stop.” Everyone was rerouted to a single lane. At one point, the road was split, and an officer (I don’t know if it was local sheriff or highway patrol – cars from both were around) shined a flashlight into the car and gestured either go right – into the post office parking lot and have your car searched, or go left – and go home. Fortunately, I got to go left. Many did not.

There is nothing on the FHP website, nothing on the local sheriff’s website. No news coverage. No explanation as to why all of a sudden this was occurring, what they were looking for, or what statute made this legal.

Does anyone have any information as to what this might mean? I find it very unsettling that the local law enforcement is now allowed to do random sweeps of every vehicle going down a road with no explanation or probable cause.

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31 Answers

slick44's avatar

maybe you could call your local police station and ask them. Idk sounds like maybe they were looking for someone. kinda scary.

Seek's avatar

@slick44

Yeah, we’re talking about the Sheriff’s Office that, upon calling to find out what the local noise ordinance was, refused to give said information, but demanded to know what day, time, and at what address the party was being held. Nobody around to inform the public, but all kinds of people there to fine and arrest them.

dpworkin's avatar

Cops are cops the world around. Can’t live without ‘em, but they always pose a civil problem. The best city governments have tamed them, the most negligent city governments have a bunch of Nazis on their hands. Sounds like you need a new, tougher Mayor.

Seek's avatar

Unfortunately, I don’t live in a city. The only thing above the county Sheriff is the County Commission, and they bend over backward for that fascist jackass.

((Did I mention I lost my job in the development department because the Sheriff wanted the third brand-new vehicle of his term, and my salary went to filling the hole in the county budget?))

jaytkay's avatar

Sobriety roadblocks are common in places I’ve lived, where they screen cars on New Years eve or some other high-proof holiday. If it’s not that I assume they were looking for someone in particular.

dpworkin's avatar

You have my sympathy. Your Sheriff will never never behave.

Pretty_Lilly's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr ......Sieg Heil !!!!
You should count your blessings,,,, it is obvious you were directed to the left lane and waved through because you are white !!!

janbb's avatar

As @jaytkay says, we’ve seen sobriety roadblocks, not what you’ve experienced. Maybe you could contact the St. Petersburg Times – a good local liberal newspaper – and see if they can suss out anything about it?

loser's avatar

We have random sobriety checkpoints here and that’s what it sounds like to me.

slick44's avatar

you no im really geting sick of police im sorry to say. there never around when you need them, but boy they dont waste any time fuckin with people mindin their own buisness.

slick44's avatar

They do that seatbelt check every now and then here in michigan. maybe that was it. who nos

davidbetterman's avatar

” and an officer… shined a flashlight into the car and gestured either go right – into the post office parking lot and have your car searched, or go left – and go home”

They were looking for someone.

SeventhSense's avatar

Sounds like they were either looking for a fugitive or it was a Random Sobriety checkpoint. Give the boys the benefit of the doubt. They’re just doing their job.
Here’s an interesting one. At the ocean beaches near me the cops used to sometimes walk among the traffic line and check out driver’s bare feet after leaving the beach. It’s illegal to drive without shoes or sandals in New York.

thriftymaid's avatar

I can’t believe it’s the first time you’ve encountered this. Yes, it’s legal in every state. You will never know what they are looking for. (US Supreme Court, Sitz vs. Michigan) Most of the time it is a sobriety check. You have the same rights as you do at any other traffic stop. The police may shine a light into your car and anything they see that’s questionable you will have to answer for and if it provides probable cause they can further search. If the officer says “mind if we take a look in your car,” you may say no. If you say yes you have given them permission to thoroughly search. They can’t search your car without probable cause or at least reasonable suspicion.

Nullo's avatar

@thriftymaid
Normally we may pass this off as mere attention to detail (or lack thereof), but in this case, it’s important.

When someone asks if you mind if they do something, you tell them “yes” to indicate that you’d rather they didn’t, and “no” to tell them that you don’t care.

thriftymaid's avatar

@Nullo Thanks for catching that. Just one of those slips while typing quickly. It is a little mistake that changes everything. :)

Seek's avatar

“Give the boys the benefit of the doubt. They’re just doing their job. ”

That is one thing I will never do. I firmly believe every action of the police force – or any government entity, for that matter – should be disclosed to the public. I refuse to live in a country that allows the public to be strong-armed by a government-funded group of people who got one too many wedgies in junior high.

laureth's avatar

This chipping-away of the fourth amendment (“unreasonable search and seizure”) has been brought to you by MADD and their push for sobriety checkpoints in the 1980’s. Once the public was pretty much okay with MADD’s reasoning (it’s to prevent drunk driving, for the good of everyone!), it opened the door for other random searches “for the public good.”

Proof that the Left, as well as the Right, does their share to undermine the Constitution. ;)

dpworkin's avatar

MADD is a left wing organization? Who knew? Is it in their charter?

laureth's avatar

@dpworkin – MADD itself might not lean either way, but it was a popular group among Democrats and the Left at the time.

SeventhSense's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr
Some of the most abusive law enforcement areas of the country are in the South. Police in the South are routinely seizing merchandise from speeders if they can even give the hint that there may be drugs involved. There’s a highly lucrative business of police seized merchandise from drug dealers and criminals but a little known practice of basically stealing from suspected criminals who are not guilty of a crime. There’s a lot of corruption, but again a routine stop is probably just them doing a task but until recently I wouldn’t have thought much of it. I forget where it was but I think it was North or South Carolina or Georgia. There’s a law on the books as in most places where merchandise can be seized from suspected drug dealers. Of course this has been historically been a raid of a major player’s mansion and all its trappings etc. But now there are police acting like modern day pirates. For example:

An Escalade or a Hummer is cruising down the highway with two well appointed black men driving. The car is suspected of speeding or anything such as would warrant a stop and it is discovered that there is the smell of marijuana and a bag is confiscated. Not enough to warrant any reasonable jury to assume that this person was dealing but with a couple of thousand dollars in their pockets its assumed that they must be dealers based on suspicion. Said vehicle is confiscated along with cash and two suspects are sent off to jail and probably released on short order. meanwhile a bureaucracy has been set up that makes it nearly impossible fro the “suspects” to get their car back and they have basically contributed to the Police Pension Fund.

mattbrowne's avatar

If you lived in a true totalitarian police state someone would have knocked on your door already arresting you for asking this treacherous Fluther questions. The Nazis beheaded people for printing leaflets. Hello, are you still there? Still free to say what you want?

Seek's avatar

@mattbrowne

What good does it to say something, if no action comes of it? Sure, let the people blow all the hot air they want. The walls are still going to close in around them, and they will thank the government for it – until it encroaches on their own front door.

SeventhSense's avatar

Matt has good point. China is a good example. The press loves to talk about the amazing advances of technology, building, infrastructure etc there, but outspoken critics of the government or free thinkers on any subject are routinely snatched from their homes never to be seen again. We have a long way to go before that.

Seek's avatar

So, should we be happy, just because we’re not quite as bad as another oppressive government?

I thought we were the “land of the free”. At least, that’s what all my teachers drilled into my head for a solid 15 years of public schooling.

People will fight tooth and nail to keep their right to own a gun, to have the right to publicly insult each other, and to practice all sorts of bigotry in the name of religion, but for some reason the 4th amendment doesn’t seem to matter to far too many people.

For that matter, the police have in recent years taken away the Confrontation Clause of the sixth amendment. You no longer have the right to face your accuser, if that accuser is a police officer. They can “appear” in court via the internet, or if an officer appears, it may not be the one (or any one) that was present at the time of your arrest.

As of October of last year, the police don’t need probable cause to pull you over or scan your plates, either. You can be simply driving home, minding your own business and following every law to the tee, and some bored deputy can decide he wants to check to see if you’re wearing your seat belt. Up go the lights, you pull over, he asks for license, registration and proof of insurance, you unbuckle yourself so you can reach the glove compartment, and bang – One hundred dollar ticket because you’re not wearing a belt while the car is running. That’s $100 plus the cost of driving to the courthouse to pay it, plus the $35 for defensive driving school to avoid having points assessed to your license, and missing two days of work to take care of both of these things (unless, of course, you want to pay extra to pay it all online – for your convenience, of course). All because the cop had nothing better to do with his time and no one else to talk to – since they replaced his partner with a laptop computer. Oh, you could, I suppose, fight the ticket in court (losing another day of work), but you’d have no way to prove that you were indeed wearing a seat belt, and the judge will most likely simply decide to not assess points to your license, but you’ll still be responsible for the fine – because the police never lie.

SeventhSense's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr
I can understand wanting to be able to face your accuser but at least in my state you always have the right to a trial and can force a confrontation with the accusing/arresting officer in person. As to the seat belt issue it seems like you’re trying to make an issue. Too many people are a physical threat to an officer and one should do everything in their power to comply. Police officers are shot at daily in the normal course of duty and they have every right to feel leery and you should do everything in your power to demonstrate that you are in compliance of the law. Driving is a privilege. They serve a vital purpose and keeping the peace is their objective. It’s not personal.
Consider this also, the number of deaths by motor vehicle is 18.9 per 100,00 in Florida. In NY which has a greater population there is a 8.1deaths per 100,000. More than twice as many deaths by motor vehicle. It seems probable that they may have due cause for an increase in traffic stops in general.
‹(•¿•)›

mattbrowne's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr – Be the change you want to see. Be active. Create action. Join a political party. Become a member of the city council. Join an NGO. Organize action. Start a blog. Win the hearts of other people.

It’s not the “other” people responsible for change. It’s you. It’s me.

Seek's avatar

@SeventhSense

Increasing traffic stops is not the way to solve that issue. Let’s compare New York and Florida.

How are these for some ways of reducing auto-related deaths in Florida:
Requiring new drivers to complete a Driver’s Education program.
Increasing the minimum driving age to 17 or 18, instead of 15.
Outlawing the use of hand-held devices (i.e., Cell phones) while driving
Removing the statutes preventing bars and pubs from being opened within a certain distance of a residential area (many barflies would then be able to walk to their favourite watering hole, and thus will not be tempted to drink and drive)

I’m not inventing issues at all. Just last month a State Trooper was “allowed to resign” after it was learned that he falsified over 700 traffic tickets. There was no information to be found as to whether these 700 people were absolved and paid back. How in the world did the number get to 700 before someone said “waitaminit… all of these people can’t be lying, can they?”

SeventhSense's avatar

Those are all good suggestions.

ItsAHabit's avatar

Although the U.S. Supreme Court has made a DWI exemption to the Constitution, eleven states have found that sobriety checkpoints or roadblocks violate their own state constitutions or have outlawed them. In these states, individuals have more protections against unreasonable search and police sobriety roadblocks are prohibited.

fredTOG's avatar

When seconds count the police are only minutes away, Don’t wait for the police arm yourselves.

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