Thursday, April 14, 2005

Anticop Legislation in Texas

Very disturbing story on GritsForBreakfast today:

"Talk about a strange coalition," said state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, when he realized the ACLU and the National Rifle Association both supported banning so-called "consent searches" at trafic stops. Sen. Juan Hinojosa sponsored HB 1195, which was heard and left pending in yesterday's Senate Criminal Justice Committee. (See MSM coverage here and here.)That bill would disallow officers from requesting consent to search people's vehicles at traffic stops without cause.

First of all, what the hell is the NRA doing with the ACLU? That's troubling right off the bat.

Several other states, including Rhode Island, New Jersey, Minnesota, Hawaii and the California Highway Patrol already disallow such searches. About 35% of all searches at traffic stops in Texas are consent searches, according to figures reported as part of departments' racial profiling statistics.Both advocates and law enforcement agreed that consent searches are only rarely "productive," meaning officers don't often find contraband when they conduct them.

"You are right that in the vast majority of the time, we found nothing,"a police union representative told the committee. That seemed to bolster Hinojosa's claim that consent searches are a "waste of law enforcement's time." Nobody thought there would be a significant law enforcement impact. A representative from San Antonio PD defended consent searches by saying it was officers' job "to ask questions," but admitted that "I don't believe we'll be hindered in the majority of our job. ... The sky isn't going to fall" if the bill passes, she said.

Maybe I'm nuts but I don't think the idea behind searches is that they yield fruit 95% of the time. It's to find the 5% of people with illegal stuff. Most people are good people. Hell, I could have even told you that you won't find things on most searches. Why remove a useful tool from our bag of tricks just because it doesn't catch a bad time many times.

Also, I reject the notion that it is unproductive. It's actually quite productive: it removes any question about whether they have illegal stuff! Once the search is over, everyone is on the same page and we all know whether or not the driver is a criminal. Everyone wins (except crooks)! How is that not productive? It's produces a good analysis about what is going on.

Sen. Seliger, R-Amarillo, in particular thought the threat of arrest invalidated the ability to deny consent. He seemed to be searching for a compromise, and at one point suggested that requiring written consent might be the way to go. That would make a big difference. The City of Austin began requiring written consent last year, and the number of people allowing their vehicles to be searched declined by 63%

Well gee, that's something to be proud of! "I made sure that cops got to do their jobs less effectively almost 2/3 of the time!". And he's a Republican! That's what I get for praising Republicans in my previous post. Ha ha, very funny.

Anyway, at this rate, pretty soon, we'll have to get written consent from the suspect and the UN before we can arrest anyone, and we won't be able to use cuffs, batons, guns, or stern language. I'm starting to forget why I want to get in this line of work...


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