Voluntary government checkpoints spark backlash

Tuesday, January 7, 2014
By Paul Martin

Larry Copeland
USA TODAY
January 7, 2014

Checkpoints, which the government insists are voluntary, are creating a backlash because of the presence of uniformed police officers. Some police departments won’t participate anymore.

A tactic used by the federal government to gather information for anti-drunken and drugged driving programs is coming under criticism in cities around the country, and some local police agencies say they will no longer take part.

The tactic involves a subcontractor for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that uses off-duty but uniformed police at voluntary roadside checkpoints where motorists are asked on their behavior behind the wheel. In some cases, workers at the checkpoints collect blood and saliva samples, in addition to breath samples. NHTSA has said previously that the surveys do not collect any DNA. Drivers are not charged at the checkpoints.

In an era of rampant distrust of the federal government and in the wake of the Obama administration’s National Security Agency surveillance scandal in which the agency has collected telephone calling records from millions of unsuspecting Americans, the checkpoints have come under intense criticism in several cities this year.

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