Interesting video of cops being cops at a sobriety checkpoint. When working sobriety checkpoints, police tend to lapse into tyrannical dictatorial mode. At sobriety checkpoints they are hair-trigger touchy. The operation at hand mutates their mentality into one that entertains aggressive and perpetual citizen engagement.
H/T to The Elusive Wapiti
When police man checkpoints of any sort, by training they assume the self-preserving street game whereby they essentially presuppose that everyone who is assembly-lined through their blockade is guilty until proven innocent. The inherent nature of most random checkpoints is intrusive and dictatorial. So what you get with these cops are bland little fascists who place you under a bright, uncomfortable interrogation spotlight where it’s up to you to prove you are not guilty of a multitude of oblique charges that have been thrust upon you simply by your entrance onto their Hitlerian stage which is “legitimized” under the auspices of “protecting ourselves and for the good of public safety.” It’s stacked against you. Police working sobriety checkpoints use your behavior as a profiling mechanism and as long as you play the stupid conformist agreeable role they expect, all will be good. However, the moment you buck their absolute authority with so much as a peep, they will rain down all manner of authoritarian abuse on your ass.
Witness the treatment of the guy in this video. It was rigged like all police street investigations are, and while canine olfactory investigations are quite useful, dogs can also be “led” for they are intensely trained animals. Interpretation of their reactions can be subjective, thus allowing the police handlers to adeptly steer the most innocuous reaction as a “reaction” which opens their “right” to search your person or your automobile. If you don’t play the part at checkpoints, you hand cops the license to put their jackboots on and rape your liberties. I’ve raised verbal “defiance” at several sobriety checkpoints and invariably the response is disproportionately rude and overbearing, even though I was not. I never yell, I don’t use insulting language, nor do I make it personal.
This reminds me of something else. On Wednesday, July 3, I took the Red Line to work. As usual, when I use public transportation, I carry my backpack because it’s much more convenient than putting everything in my pockets or trying to carry it all around in a plastic shopping bag. As I rounded the bend to head to the turnstiles at Pershing Square, I noticed a bunch of olive green-clad LA Sheriffs surrounding and manning a table where you were required to submit to a bag search before passing through to the platform. I’ve only seen this once before at an MTA station, and I blithely attributed it to the 4th of July holiday. The cop opened all 3 sections of my backpack and also peered into my lunch bag which was inside the backpack. He handed it back and I was on my way. I even said thank you. Later, on the way home, I again encountered a similar checkpoint at the Hollywood/Vine station. Three older women were allowed to pass through without being subjected to searches of their purses and handbags while I was commanded to visit the examination table. I guess this is what the “random” denotation means with these checkpoints. The sheriff opened up my backpack and checked the compartments. When he reached my lunch bag he asked me, “Oh, this your lunch?” “It was,” I replied curtly. My patience and good mood were dwindling. I was tired, it was late in the day. I was feeling irked. Once again, my backpack was returned to me after it was determined I was not a grave national security threat.
Later it occurred to me that I had lapsed into a disgusting passive mode during these examinations and they didn’t strike me as intrusive until later after I thought about them. I’m sure courts have confronted such random bag checks or the MTA wouldn’t be doing it, but this means nothing. Something strikes me as intrusive and un-Constitutional about these searches. I have committed no crime, other than I want to use Los Angeles’ subway system, which in this city seems a crime in itself at times. But really…they have no right to search my bag.
Alas, a search of the MTA site sheds some light into their CYA method of circumventing the Constitutional ambiguities of such security methods. The bag search is optional, however, refusal to submit to it means you will not be allowed to use the train. Sneaky bastards.
Likewise, driving a car and having a driver’s license comes with “implied consent” so if you refuse to take a field sobriety test, the penalty is loss of your license for a designated period of time but you generally cannot be forced to take any sobriety tests. The price associated with asserting your implied consent for DUI investigations is harsher, but the “implied consent” of allowing your bags to be checked in advance of using the train simply means you need to find another mode of transportation which is still very inconvenient.
From the MTA site:
Interestingly, in the time between beginning this post earlier today and now, I came across this story from the NY Times about the scary and larger than law Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) which seems to revel in the clear destruction of domestic American liberties. This passage is noteworthy as it pertains to this subject:
In one of the court’s most important decisions, the judges have expanded the use in terrorism cases of a legal principle known as the “special needs” doctrine and carved out an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a warrant for searches and seizures, the officials said.
The special needs doctrine was originally established in 1989 by the Supreme Court in a ruling allowing the drug testing of railway workers, finding that a minimal intrusion on privacy was justified by the government’s need to combat an overriding public danger. Applying that concept more broadly, the FISA judges have ruled that the N.S.A.’s collection and examination of Americans’ communications data to track possible terrorists does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment, the officials said.
That legal interpretation is significant, several outside legal experts said, because it uses a relatively narrow area of the law — used to justify airport screenings, for instance, or drunken-driving checkpoints — and applies it much more broadly, in secret, to the wholesale collection of communications in pursuit of terrorism suspects. “It seems like a legal stretch,” William C. Banks, a national security law expert at Syracuse University, said in response to a description of the decision. “It’s another way of tilting the scales toward the government in its access to all this data.”