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December 15, 2014 / jeffnward

Your constitutional rights at work!

I still love newspapers and, just like it is with any love affair, there are times those Daily Herald reporters drive me nuts, and there are times when I wanna kiss them (male or female) squarely on the lips. I still can’t stop thinking about Jake Griffin’s piece on just how Caucasian our suburban police departments really are.

And I’m in a kissing mood again because the DH’s Susan Sarkauskas did what every good reporter should do – she brought a simple yet fascinating fact to light. It was something most folks would’ve completely missed if not for her due diligence and the City of Geneva’s well-known capacity to misstate the facts.

Normally I’d just link directly to the story so the reporter gets full credit, but so far, the stats are only up on Facebook which makes that impossible.

Basically, late December 6 through early morning of December 7, the Geneva Police set up what law enforcement officers euphemistically call a “safety check” at 1166 East Route 38. And I say “euphemistically” because it has absolutely nothing to do with safety.

Police

The ostensible objective of these “events” is to remove drunk drivers from the road. But unlike No Refusal Weekends, in which drunk drivers and only drunk drivers are targeted, a “Roadside Safety Check” consists of pulling people over at a check point with no probable cause whatsoever.

Then, even if the driver is as sober as it gets, the officers can still demand a driver’s license and registration and then proceed to write the motorist up for any other number of unrelated offenses. A more appropriate term for this kind of endeavor would be “Trolling for Tickets.”

But don’t take my word for it, simply review the following “safety check” stats that Ms. Sarkauskas was kind enough to provide through the Illinois State Police:

Violations Enforcement Activity

2          Registration offenses
16        Driver’s license offenses
3          Occupant restraint offenses
1          Driving under the influence arrest
5          Other alcohol/drug arrests

41        Total citations/arrests
6          Total written warnings

What that means is, out of the 41 tickets issued, a grand total of one arrest (two percent of all the “enforcement activity” if you count the warnings) can be attributed to the “safety check’s” original intent.

Nice!

To be fair, Geneva is not nearly the only Illinois municipality engaging in this sad practice. That said, the GPD’s generally laudable propensity for writing warnings certainly didn’t show itself that night! And to make matters worse, on their own Facebook page, the City of Geneva reported they’d actually written five DUI’s, which may make the police department look better, but it’s clearly not the case.

I did ask the State Police exactly what they meant by “Other alcohol/drug arrests” and, while they said they’d get back to me with a more specific definition, a spokesperson told me they’re definitely not DUI’s.

So here’s what we have folks!

As long as they follow the “rules,” any Illinois police department can set up a “roadside safety check” by which they can randomly stop motorists with no probable cause. Then, even if the driver isn’t the least bit inebriated, the officers can demand a license and registration and proceed to write up the vehicle’s occupants for any number of violations completely unrelated to the “safety check’s” sanctioned purpose.

And all the police have to do is sit there and wait for the motorists to come to them! Only in America!

One of conservatives’ favorite fears du jour is the “dismantling of our Constitution.” But if you ask them to define exactly what that means, they can’t seem to come up with an answer. Meanwhile, in yet another supreme irony, the “dismantling” process is taking place right under their collective noses.

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