#192 Lawless Law Enforcement Tries To Ignore Changes In

Date: Thu, 07 Dec 2000
Subject: Alert #192 Lawless Law Enforcement Tries To Ignore Changes In

Lawless Law Enforcement Tries To Ignore Changes In Drug War


DrugSense FOCUS Alert #192 Thursday December 7, 2000

As drug policy reform begin to gain popularity, it’s not surprising to
find some groups that benefit from the drug war refusing to accept the
changing landscape. A couple of the most audacious of the drug war
profiteers appear to be refusing to accept the will of the U.S.
Supreme Court and the will of the people.

The Sheriff of Rolla, Mo. has announced that he will continue to
operate random drug checkpoints even though the U.S. Supreme Court
recently ruled that such tactics are unconstitutional. As the
excellent Kansas City Star article explains below, It’s not surprising
that the Sheriff can’t let go of what has become a huge cash cow.

Elsewhere, some Oregon newspapers have reported on a narcotics task
force that has filed a lawsuit to fight state residents who voted to
reform asset forfeiture. Clearly those officials have no sense of
irony, as they are trying to claim that efforts to restrict asset
forfeiture practices are “unconstitutional.”

Please write a letter to the Kansas City Star or the Oregonian to let
these lawless law enforcement officials know that their contempt for
basic justice and fairness is being observed around the world.


It’s not what others do it’s what YOU do


Phone, Fax etc.)

Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the sent
letter list (sentlte@mapinc.org) if you are subscribed, or by
E-mailing a copy directly to MGreer@mapinc.org Your letter will then
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and be motivated to follow suit

This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our
impact and effectiveness.



Source: Kansas City Star (MO)


Please also write to the Oregonian to protest a drug task force’s
decision to legally challenge a ballot initiative that would reform
asset forfeiture practices.

US: OR: Suit says approved measure is illegal
Pubdate: Dec. 2, 2000
Source: Oregonian, The (OR)
Contact: letters@news.oregonian.com



US MO: Rolla-Area Sheriff Says He’ll Continue Drug Checkpoints
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00/n1816/a05.html
Newshawk: Mark Greer
Pubdate: Sun, 3 Dec 2000
Source: Kansas City Star (MO)
Copyright: 2000 The Kansas City Star
Contact: letters@kcstar.com
Address: 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108
Feedback: http://www.kansascity.com/Discussion/
Website: http://www.kcstar.com/
Author: Karen Dillon, The Kansas City Star
Related: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00/n1615/a05.html

Even though the U.S. Supreme Court last week outlawed roadblocks to
check for drugs, the Phelps County Sheriff’s Department in Rolla, Mo.,
apparently plans to continue checkpoints on Interstate 44.

Sheriff Don Blankenship said last week in a Rolla newspaper article
that he would continue the checkpoints, which have been so frequent
that critics call him the “Sheriff of I-44.”

The ruling “shouldn’t affect us because we have a different type of
checkpoint” from the one the Supreme Court addressed, Blankenship was
quoted as saying.

Blankenship also said in the article that the U.S. attorney’s office
agreed with his interpretation.

He did not return telephone calls from a reporter over the past week.
Blankenship’s decision runs counter to actions taken by several law
enforcement organizations.

The Missouri Highway Patrol said last week troopers would no longer
conduct checkpoints and state Attorney General Jay Nixon agreed with
that decision, a spokesman for Nixon said.

The Missouri Sheriffs Association sent notices about the ruling to
sheriffs in the state, and Executive Director James L. Vermeersch said
he was planning to talk with Blankenship after hearing about his decision.

The Missouri Police Chiefs Association has advised police agencies to
stop the checkpoints while the ruling is being researched. However,
Terri Dougherty, executive assistant to U.S. Attorney Audrey Fleissig
in the Eastern District in St. Louis, confirmed it was her office that
advised Blankenship he could continue the roadblocks. She declined
further comment.

Blankenship did not attend a Phelps County Commission meeting
Thursday. Commissioners had wanted to discuss the high court ruling
with him, the presiding commissioner said.

The American Civil Liberties Union branch in St. Louis will address
the Phelps County action, an official said. Attorneys for the ACLU in
Indianapolis won the Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday.

“We certainly intend to share with the sheriff our view with how the
Supreme Court decision applies to his checkpoints and encourage him to
stop them,” said Matt LeMieux, executive director of the ACLU of
Eastern Missouri.

“Even if the Justice Department gave him the go-ahead, I don’t think
it changes the fact that the practice appears to conflict with the
U.S. Supreme Court ruling.”

In the 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Indianapolis’ use of
checkpoints — intended to catch drug criminals — was an unreasonable
search and seizure that violated the Fourth Amendment. According to
the ruling, it is the purpose of a checkpoint that determines whether
it is constitutional.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor distinguished drug checkpoints from
sobriety roadblocks.

The sobriety roadblocks, O’Connor wrote, protect the public from an
“immediate, vehicle-bound threat to life and limb.”

But drug checkpoints are attempts to find evidence that a crime
occurred and thus serve only law enforcement’s need for crime control,
she wrote.

In Indianapolis, the checkpoints were staged like sobriety
checkpoints, with police and drug-sniffing dogs stopping each vehicle
along a thoroughfare.

Law enforcement officers in Phelps County and other locations in
Missouri say they commonly use deception to create the necessary
suspicion to be able to search cars.

The officers set up a sign just before a highway exit that warns a
drug checkpoint is ahead. However, the checkpoint is actually at the
end of the exit.

Motorists, especially those from out of state, who take the exit
appear to be avoiding the checkpoint, Blankenship said in a previous
interview with The Star. Those drivers have created reasonable
suspicion to be stopped and possibly searched, especially if they
cannot explain why they took the exit, Blankenship said.

Because his officers have a reason to suspect each vehicle they
search, that makes the Phelps County checkpoints different from
Indianapolis, Blankenship told the Rolla newspaper. But the ACLU’s
LeMieux said the purpose of the checkpoints is no different from

“If the purpose is to find evidence of a crime then it is
unconstitutional,” LeMieux said. “It is quite clear that the purpose
of the Phelps County checkpoints is to find criminal evidence — drugs
in this case.”

The Star reported in October that Blankenship, who was running for
re-election, was criticized by opponents and others for spending so
much time on Interstate 44 conducting the checkpoints instead of
patrolling the county.

The critics also said Blankenship’s checkpoints stemmed from the
benefit his office received from the cash and property his deputies

Blankenship said that the checkpoints, which he ran at least twice a
week, were valuable in the war on drugs and had no effect on other
crime control.

Blankenship said his deputies had taken thousands of pounds of illegal
narcotics off the interstate.


To the editor of the Kansas City Star:

Thanks to Karen Dillon for all the work she has done to expose asset
forfeiture practices.

I thought the efforts of law enforcement to hold onto forfeited assets
despite state law to the contrary was outrageous enough, but now we
learn that the Phelps County Sheriff’s Department in Rolla feels it
does not need to abide by a U.S. Supreme Court decision banning random
drug checkpoints (“Rolla-Area Sheriff Says He’ll Continue Drug
Checkpoints,” Dec.3).

In some ways, it is possible to sympathize with law enforcement
officials who have been given the impossible task of creating a
“drug-free America.” Since illegal drug users often don’t look any
different from other citizens, the obvious response is to put everyone
under suspicion. And since politicians have made this into a holy war,
it’s not surprising that some police think any tactics are fair game,
and that they deserve to get a cut of the black market windfall being
generated by drug prohibition.

However, this dependence on forfeiture money is eroding law
enforcement’s respect for the law itself, and the general public.
Police should not decide which laws they will enforce (and which court
decisions they will abide) based on their own financial self-interest.
We should end the drug war and allow police to determine priorities
based on public safety, not their own economic bottom line.

Stephen Young

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Prepared by Stephen Young – http://home.att.net/~theyoungfamily Focus
Alert Specialist