Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Is Police Trickery A Detriment To Community Trust?

A while back, the US Supreme Court ruled that police drug checkpoints were illegal. However, they did not rule police saying there was a narcotics checkpoint ahead illegal, just actually running the checkpoint. This has led to a creative ruse by some police departments.
Police in the city of 19,000 recently posted large yellow signs along Interstate 271 that warned drivers that there was a drug checkpoint ahead, to be prepared to stop and that there was a drug-sniffing police dog in use.

There was no such checkpoint, just police officers waiting to see if any drivers would react suspiciously after seeing the signs.
Via The Seattle Post Intelligencer
Of course, when someone acts suspiciously when they see the checkpoint signs, police then use that and any traffic offenses committed by persons trying to avoid the checkpoint as probable cause to stop the person and check their vehicle for illegal drugs.

While this tactic isn't illegal since there was no actual checkpoint I have some misgivings about this police tactic. I'm not so sure that such blatant dishonesty is really conducive to building trust with the community you are supposed to be serving.

It's similar to the public vitriol regarding traffic enforcement cameras. While no one likes to get a ticket from a cop who caught you speeding, using unmanned traffic cameras seem like playing dirty pool. That really ticks off the public.

Just because something is legal, doesn't always mean it's right. Given how hard it is to build community trust and just how easy it is to lose it, we should probably err on the side of honesty and integrity. 

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