My wife and I drove past signs stating “Drug Checkpoint Ahead” on the night of June 12 as we headed northwest on Highway 36; the signs were placed before the Church Ranch exit, which we use on our route home.
Here are the basic facts already established about the incident based on direct observation and news accounts (see also my first, second, and third reports):
- The police pulled over 23 vehicles, arrested one man for felony marijuana possession, and issued three citations.
- The police did not stop every passing vehicle; rather, they pulled over people for an alleged “identified violation” (and yet, again, they issued only three citations).
- My wife witnessed the police in the process of searching six vehicles, two along Highway 36, and four more along Church Ranch. I do not know how many vehicles in total the police searched.
- The Department of Homeland Security was involved in training the Westminster police to conduct these sorts of “drug checkpoints.”
The new information is that the Westminster police used at least one police dog in the course of the “drug checkpoint,” and Randy Corporon, a defense attorney and fill-in host for Grassroots Radio, had a conversation with Trevor Materasso of the Westminster Police.
There’s a humorous aside regarding the bit about the drug dogs. Complete Colorado features a headline, “Homeland Security trained police dogs for HWY 36 checkpoints?!?” Accompanying this headline is a photo of a police dog. However, the link goes to my article about Homeland Security; there is no mention of a dog. So yesterday Ken Clark invited me on to Grassroots Radio to discuss the police dogs, and I had nothing for him on that topic. (Clark is one of the show’s two regular hosts.)
But it turns out Westminster Police did use a police dog, though my wife and I didn’t see it.
In the June 22 North Jeffco Westsider (front page, “Police enforce drug checkpoint”), Ashley Reimers cites Materasso: “One of the biggest resources we use in these checkpoints is K-9 units. We have a dog on scene that alerts us as to whether or not . . . drugs are in the vehicle, and then we search the vehicle.”
But that must not be much a police dog, given the police searched six vehicles that we saw and made only one arrest for drugs.
Today I went back on Grassroots radio to discuss this detail and hear Corporon’s additional insights.
Mostly Corporon verified previously reported facts, including Materasso’s claim that police pulled people over for “identified violations.” One example Corporon gave of an alleged violation was an illegal u-turn.
However, it seemed to me that Corporon was overly credulous regarding Materasso’s claims. My wife and I witnessed no cars pulled over on the other side of Highway 36, as would have been the case for an illegal u-turn. Moreover, as previously noted, the police issued only three citations (and made one arrest) out of 23 stops. These alleged “violations” were evidently mere pretexts, for the most part.
Again, the issue is not whether such police activity passes muster in court, but whether these “drug checkpoints” inappropriately harass citizens “guilty” of nothing more than going about their business.
Image: City of Westminster