I think I speak for all those who founded CopBlock groups across the globe when I say that it is always a great feeling when you make contact with someone new in your area regarding a police interaction. I mean, this is why we started groups in our area right? So it goes without saying that I was very pleased at the fact that I have had this pleasure of being contacted. Syracuse CopBlock (https://www.facebook.com/Syracusecopblock) is a pretty new addition to the CopBlock family and I am new to the area, so it was really good start to my Sunday morning to have received the message I did.
In a nutshell, Syracuse CopBlock contributor Corrie Moran came upon a DWI checkpoint in Fulton NY. After passing through it with no problems, he decided that he would warn others going toward the checkpoint that there was in fact a checkpoint ahead. He proceeded to make a sign out of the only thing he had, an empty soda 24pk. The sign read “DWI checkpoint”. Shortly after getting some honks from passing motorist who actually turned around and did not participate in the interrogation by the state thugs, he was then visited by one the state thugs. Here is his recount of what happened early Sunday morning.
My interaction at the checkpoint: I see the signs that say “slow, dwi checkpoint”. I didnt roll my window down any further than it was (it was down about 4 inches because I was smoking a cigarette). Before I fully stop, the officer shines his flashlight on my registration and inspection stickers. I stop.
Officer: Where are you coming from?
Officer: Where is home?
Me: Am I required to answer that question?
Officer: No you dont have to answer any questions. Have you had anything to drink tonight?
Me: Am I free to go?
Officer: Yep, go ahead.
I pull into the parking lot that they were directing the traffic to and pulled out the other parking lot exit and drove down the road about a mile. I turned around and drove back about half way to the checkpoint. I got out of my car, stood at the corner of rte 3 and rte 481 and tried to warn drivers verbally about the checkpoint. I wasn’t getting any attention, so I went back to my car to look for something to write on. I tore apart a 24 pack soda box and made a sign that said “DWI checkpoint” and an arrow pointing up. I decided to get a little closer to the checkpoint.
I drove to a VFW that was off of the main street, and parked my van in their parking lot. I got out and walked back down to the main street (route 481) and was walking, on the sidewalk, back and forth between two corners holding my sign. I had 4 people beep their horns and turn, more than that just turned at the intersection before the checkpoint. One person rolled their window down and said “I already knew about it, but thank you, and god bless you” I told the man “You’re welcome. I am here for you.”
About 20-25 minutes after I arrived at the sidewalk with my sign, officer Harris badge #88, drove towards me from the opposite direction of the checkpoint (the direction of the vehicles that I was warning). I noticed him as he was traveling towards me, as soon as he started pulling to the side of the road. I folded my sign, and pulled my cell phone out of my pocket. Unlocked my phone, which takes all of 2 seconds, and pressed the Qik app on my phone. As the camera was opening, I was pressing the “record” command, with no reaction from the app (my hands were freezing), officer Harris #88, grabbed my phone and sign out of my hands. He set my property on the hood of his vehicle, and was muttering something about me wanting to film him.
Me: And I have every right to do so, officer. You are in a public space and you have no expectation of privacy.
Hood: What are you doing out here?
Me: Am I required to answer that question?
Hood: Yes you are required to answer my questions. I am an officer of the law.
Me: But don’t I have the right to remain silent? My 5th amendment right doesn’t apply here?
Hood: Oh, we are gonna play that game?
Me: I don’t play games with my rights, sir.
Hood: I know all about your rights.
Me: As you should. You took an oath to uphold the constitution.
Hood: Do you have ID on you?
Me: Am I being detained?
Hood: Yes you are being detained. You are in violation of a city ordinance right now.
Me: Well, in that case, Im going to take my wallet out (moving slowly). I don’t want you to feel threatened in any way. I am completely peaceful.
I handed him my ID.
Hood: You’ve been watching too many videos on you tube.
Me: (smiling) Well, I’m glad that you’ve been watching them too.
I was thinking that education is good for everyone. Especially police officers.
Hood: You got some kind of agenda or something?
Me: I’m not going to answer your questions, sir. Are you going to site me for the violation?
Hood: That’s completely up to you.
I shugged my shoulders and thought to myself, what do I have to lose by telling him my point of veiw about what was going on.
Me: Do you want to know my opinion?
Hood: Yeah, sure. Go ahead.
Me: My opinion is that this theatre up the road is a form of revenue generation during a down economy, trying to earn money for your department. You are taking money from the people of this community unwillingly and unjustly.
He started talking on the radio, so I paused out of respect, but more importantly because I wanted him to hear what I was saying. As soon as he was done talking on the radio he directed his attention back to me. I wasn’t done talking but he said to me…
Hood: Well I have personal experience with DWI, and I know the harm it can cause.
Me: I am sorry to hear that, sir, but can I tell you one more thing?
Me: Do you know that, statistically, there are about half the number of DWI arrest made at these checkpoint as there are made during regular traffic stops for actual violations, per car?
He brought up the fact that he had served in the military. I don’t remember exactly how he said it.
Me: I sincerely appreciate it. I thank you for your service, sir. Its because of people like you that I have the freedom to do what I am doing. This is something that I strongly believe in, obviously, because Im out here freezing my balls off.
Hood: And i appreciate that you are exercising your rights.
Me: Can I have my property back please, sir?
This is where the video picks up…
Corrie told me that several cars honked at him in support of making them aware of the checkpoint and several turned around and took a detour. Obviously not a wasted endeavor. Are DUI Checkpoints REALLY about catching drunk drivers? Are they effective? Consider this, in 2006 the Arizona Daily Star reported this…
Pima County sobriety checkpoints have netted a tiny number of DUI arrests despite stopping tens of thousands of drivers since 2005, an Arizona Daily Star investigation has found. Since the Sheriff’s Department began staging checkpoints nearly two years ago — overriding authorities’ previous concerns that the stops yielded few arrests — fewer than 1 percent of the more than 46,000 drivers stopped have been arrested on suspicion of DUI. And fewer than half of those arrested have been convicted. Even with the low arrest rates, proponents defend the checkpoints, saying they deter drunken driving by educating people about its dangers. Every person deputies stop receives anti-drunken-driving pamphlets, which they say means one more person who may avoid driving under the influence. Source http://www.eller.arizona.edu
Even though this report from the Arizona Daily Star was 7 years ago, I believe it’s safe to assume these checkpoints are no more effective today. I have sent an email to the Fulton Police Department in regards to which “code” Corrie was in violation of by holding his sign on a public sidewalk. No reply yet. In conclusion I would like to thank Corrie for his heads up thinking and on-the-fly sign making to alert the locals.