Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Squall Line Vol. 3 - Safety Check Point

I experienced my first “Safety Check Point” on Friday night, courtesy of the Florida Highway Patrol.

I was on my way home from Christmas shopping and saw the flashing sign warning me to prepare to stop on the 4-lane highway. I had no idea what to expect, so I dug out my driver’s license, insurance card and registration, which were all quite handy from my recent blue light experience. I had plenty of time to locate all of that, as it took me about 25 minutes to travel about 2 miles. I wasn’t stopped by officers, (thankfully I had gotten my expired decal renewed a week ago) but it was a bit disconcerting to drive through at least 50 officers who were staring at me and my vehicle. I noticed there was a large “staging area” set up with stadium lights where they were directing some drivers to pull in who failed the scrutiny that we all got. I read in the paper the next day that the main focus of this particular checkpoint was sobriety.

I am all in favor of safety and sobriety. But the way this operation was set up really made me uncomfortable. It made me think of Big Brother. Max Bellamy writes in an ezine article: “Sobriety checkpoints hover on a fragile precipice between legitimate public safety and encroachment upon a citizen's Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.”

I find it interesting that though I had nothing to hide, I was very nervous. I just wanted to get home, but the only way was to endure the checkpoint. Maybe this was just too reminiscent of my visit to Czechlosovokia in the 1970’s when border guards entered our tour bus armed with machine guns. We were just high school kids on a music tour but we were totally intimidated. I actually remember feeling pretty terrified.

I am thankful for law enforcement that protects us from the many lunatics who roam our roads.
However, I question whether the best way to arrest people who are driving while intoxicated is to detain everyone on the road. I recall that the homeland security procedures created unease about the invasion of personal privacy. Is it okay to monitor everyone for the sake of identifying the few who are violating the law?

I think we have to be mindful that there is such a thing as too much government power. The whole checkpoint experience disturbed me on a lot of levels. Maybe its just another warning sign of the times.

In the meantime, if you’ve posted about something that’s on your mind and want to link up to the Squall Line, please do so below.


Chatty Kelly said...

There is something intimidating about the police...I think it is their absolute power. Who doesn't automatically glance at their speed when they see a police man? And I've gotten a ticket (or two) in my day.

Having said that, I am so thankful for the police!! Imagine the chaos that would ensue without them.

Greg C said...

I do have something to squall about but it will take me a while to gather my thoughts. I always get nervous too even though I am not doing anything wrong.

Fuschia said...

I have a family member who has determined that legally even a warranted traffic citation stop is a violation of our right to travel (not sure which ammendment that is). What you have just described is absolutley outside the boundaries...BUT, what is one to do?