Thursday, November 30, 2000

Police shy away from drug roadblock

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Tristate police agencies — from state highway patrols to county police forces — said this week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling banning random drug roadblocks will have no impact on their operations.

        “We have never conducted drug checkpoints,” said Sgt. Gary Lewis, spokesman for the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

        “We do find DUI checkpoints effective, and the federal courts have upheld that alcohol checkpoints are constitutional.”

        The ruling Tuesday involved the Indianapolis Police Department's practice of randomly stopping cars in high-crime neighborhoods and checking for drugs with drug-sniffing dogs.

        Kentucky State Police spokesman Lt. Kevin Payne said his agency makes most of its drug arrests on roadways by pulling over vehicles that break traffic laws.

        The agency never has organized random drug checkpoints.

        “You won't believe how many people transporting drugs speed,” Lt. Payne said.

        “Most drug arrests on the road come about because the vehicle broke a moving violation and it turns out they have dope in the trunk, under the seat, or whatever the case may be.”

        Sgt. Lewis agreed that enforcing traffic laws is an effective way of catching drug criminals on the road.

        Cincinnati police spokesman Lt. Ray Ruberg said his agency has never conducted drug roadblocks nor is he aware of any other Greater Cincinnati force organizing such roadblocks.

        The ruling isn't an issue with most county police in the area, said Capt. Ed Butler, spokesman for Kenton County Police.

        “In county policing, we do not have urban areas where drugs are traded openly on the streets,” he said. “That wasn't the case in Indianapolis.”

        Area drug strike forces, such as the one in Northern Kentucky, also do not use drug roadblocks. Their activities are mostly covert operations.

        This ruling will not force law enforcement to reconsider how it attempts to halt drug activities and catch drug criminals, said 1st Sgt. Scott Beamon, spokesman for the Indiana State Police.

        He said the ruling is narrow enough to only address roadblocks.


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