If you will be a road warrior during this holiday season, then you might encounter police roadblocks to check for possible drunk drivers. Unless you find a route around such roadblock checkpoints, stopping is mandatory. But the Fort Worth Police Department reportedly was forcing drivers off the road to collect "voluntary" blood and saliva samples.
Raw Story reported, "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has insisted that the study, which was projected to cost $7.9 million over three years, is anonymous and '100 percent voluntary'," but police in Fort Worth, Texas, "forced drivers off the road so federal contractors could test their saliva, blood and breath tested for a study on driving while impaired."
NBCDFW reported that "Fort Worth police initially said they could not immediately find any record of their officers being involved in the roadblock." Later, "police spokesman Sgt. Kelly Peel said that the department's Traffic Division coordinated with the NHTSA on the use of off-duty officers after the agency asked for help with the survey." Furthermore, the Fort Wayne Police Department claimed "the effort was '100% voluntary and anonymous'." DNA samples are "anonymous?"
But Kim Cope, one of the drivers sampled, said it surely didn't feel voluntary to her. It "just doesn't seem right that you can be forced off the road when you're not doing anything wrong. I gestured to the guy in front that I just wanted to go straight, but [the officer] wouldn't let me and forced me into a parking spot."
"They were asking for cheek swabs. They would give $10 for that. Also, if you let them take your blood, they would pay you $50 for that." She added that she "felt trapped" and "finally did the Breathalyzer test just because I thought that would be the easiest way to leave."
Another driver pulled over, Carl Olund, said no one told him the tests were voluntary and he felt pressured to comply. In fact, Olund said the cop "was like up in my window to where I was like, 'OK, I might as well just stay.' I mean, the cops are around, so if I take off, I'm not going to have four or five cops chasing me."
Sgt. Peel stated, "We are reviewing the actions of all police personnel involved to ensure that FWPD policies and procedures were followed. We apologize if any of our drivers and citizens were offended or inconvenienced by the NHTSA National Roadside Survey." That "apology" didn't cut it.
It was an "abuse of power," according to Susan Watson, Alabama ACLU executive director. "How voluntary is it when you have a police officer in uniform flagging you down? Are you going to stop? Yes, you're going to stop."
"One key difference between past surveys -- including those who used blood tests to determine drugs -- is the use of automatic collection from passive sensors," according to Daily Tech, which also dug up the image of a passive sensor. This "new tactic takes the past surveys from the realm of being questionable from a privacy perspective into a new era of flagrant abuse."
As far as local attorney Frank Colosi is concerned "the search constituted an unconstitutional search and seizure. He added, "You can't just be pulled over randomly or for no reason. [The FWPD] essentially [lied] to [motorists] when they say it's completely voluntary, because they're testing [them] at that moment."
Because the uproar is not dying down, and American citizens didn't take kindly to the pitiful FWPD apology, Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead stated, "We realize this survey caused many of our citizens' frustration and we apologize for our participation. I agree with our citizens' concerns and I apologize for our participation. Any future federal survey of this nature, which jeopardizes the public's trust, will not be approved for the use of Fort Worth police."
Alabama police participated in a similar roadblock and collection program, after which the governor called for an investigation, and Alabama's Attorney General expressed "shock and outrage." NHTSA spokesman Jose Ucles, said that "study was being funded by the Obama administration, via the White House's National Office of Drug Control Policy." Ucles added:
Participation is voluntary. All data is anonymous.
If you're doing roadblocks and asking people to stop, you have to have the deputies there to make sure everything is safe. It's not about detaining anybody, because the survey is voluntary and anonymous. It's about making sure the traffic is safe in that area.
Yet, as Daily Tech pointed out, the feds are defiantly charging on and "well on their way to their goal of collecting samples from 8,000 drivers." So if you get forced off the road and asked to hand over blood, saliva and submit to a Breathalyzer, remember that it is allegedly voluntary. Whether or not the cops know that is anyone's guess.
Try to have a safe a very Happy Thanksgiving!
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