To the Editor,
I just finished reading your story titled “Pembroke police charge 2 with drugs.”
My question is about the roadblock/checkpoint described in the article. Did Chief Florita acknowledge that the checkpoint was in fact part of Operation Clean Sweep? I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on police checkpoints, the constitutionality of those checkpoints and the manner in which they are conducted.
The reason for my interest in this matter comes after years of being subjected to police interaction every time I leave my farm and travel to town. These random police checkpoints being conducted by the Highway Patrol have become the norm and I don’t even think about crossing the river without being prepared to talk to the troopers.
Although inconvenient, the courts have upheld the constitutionality of drivers license checkpoints as long as they are conducted in a certain manner. The police can demand to see proof of drivers license of people driving on the roadway. However, the Supreme Court has long ruled that “random drug checkpoints” are unconstitutional.
In The City of Indianapolis v. Edmond the high court held that: Police may not conduct roadblocks “whose primary purpose is to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing.” Such roadblocks must have a specific primary purpose, such as keeping roadways safe from impaired drivers, or enforcing border security. The court refused to “credit the ‘general interest in crime control’ as justification for a regime of suspicionless stops.”
This brings me back to my question: Did Chief Florita acknowledge that these roadblocks were conducted as part of Operation Clean Sweep? That’s illegal. There were four, simultaneous roadblocks conducted and it was not possible to enter Strickland Heights without passing thru one of them.
If the problem really is drugs in the public housing complex then police should conduct a thorough investigation which should result in arrests. If they don’t have the resources then the Sheriff’s Office would be happy to assign its drug task force to the task. However, violating the rights of law-abiding citizens and calling it an operation aimed at reducing crime does very little to gain public trust.
These checkpoints are being primarily conducted in high poverty areas, targeting primarily minorities, and are nothing more than a revenue generator, imposing additional ‘taxes’ on the poor.