Massachusetts State Police Colonel Richard D. McKeon told a little lie this week, saying an announcement of a DUI roadblock would “reduce fear and anxiety” for the general public. The announcement is not meant to ease anybody’s mind, or even be noticed. It aims to comply with a court decision saying an announcement you didn’t hear is sufficient to revoke your constitutional rights.
It’s a ritual of federal grant season. Somewhere in Franklin County, Massachusetts next weekend police will be stopping cars and searching occupants.
The Supreme Judicial Court decided that vague announcements give sufficient warning to suspend the Declaration of Rights. By design the warnings are useless. Few people hear them. Most people who do hear them live in the area and can’t escape. The thousands of people driving on I-91 between Vermont and Connecticut aren’t warned.
Police could post a sign next to a bar saying “right here, Saturday after next, starting at 9 PM, we’re going to make everybody blow.” That would give notice. But the Supreme Judicial Court rejected the argument that police should use the least intrusive means possible.
Instead a few people on the internet learn “somewhere in these 700 square miles in these 48 hours” That’s just noise.
These fixed checkpoints don’t do as good a job as regular patrols looking for bad drivers. But there’s federal funding involved. If they don’t work, the money is lost. So they have to be presented as working. Any reduction in overall DUI statistics is a beneficial side effect of roadblocks, proving we need more roadblocks. Any increase is a sign of a DUI epidemic, proving we need more roadblocks.
It’s difficult to impossible to say a roadblock prevented anything. It can be easy to see that they kill.
A few years ago police at a roadblock dragged a passenger out of a truck and beat him to death. Normally we’d only hear the police officers’ side of the story. This time a newspaper photographer caught the action. (Did they expect favorable publicity by setting up next to the city newspaper? Oops.) The agencies involved had to pay to settle a wrongful death suit. The officers were not disciplined or charged. So there’s no reason for them not to keep beating up anybody who has a bad attitude.
A local lawyer claims he found a loophole to avoid having his breath tested by the flashlight they stick in your face. Hold your license and declaration of rights up to the window without opening it. Maybe you could try it. When — if — you get out of hospital, let me know how it worked for you.
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