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Oct 31, 2008


A Civil Libertarian

Today there were 5 uniformed City of Dallas policemen standing in the street on the Lakewood Country Club side of the bridge into the Hollywood-Santa Monica neighborhood. I saw them require each car passing through to stop or at least slow down while they peered inside. They told me they were conducting "probable cause" checks. When I asked how it is "probable cause" to check each and every car passing through, rather than cars where the drivers have given "probable cause" for a search, they had no answer and told me they had concluded their business with me and that I should move on.

I talked to a Corporal Sanchez at Dallas PD HQ and he claimed to have no idea these kinds of stops were occurring. He referred me to the Division responsible for Lakewood, and a Sergeant there told me he was well aware of these kinds of stops and claims they are called "Safety Checks" (among other names he would not disclose) and that they are conducted pursuant to the "SOP on Safety Checks." Neither Corporal Sanchez nor this Sergeant could explain to me how a check of every single car entering and exiting a neighborhood is a "probable cause" check.

I am concerned that this is a civil liberties violation. What gives?

A Civil Libertarian

P.S. I asked both the officers stopping cars and the Sergeant if there was a specific crime that triggered them making these stops, and was told the stops are not tied to any specific crime, so I don't think the stops are intended to assist in a search for the rapist described above or for any other particular criminal.

Norman Alston

Stopping or slowing traffic on a public right-of-way, then looking through a window, not entering to search, doesn't sound like an infringement of anyone's civil liberties to me. No more so than directing traffic around an accident. Probable cause likely describes what they were looking for, not what they needed for that.

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