BoWilliams.com readers: If you were stopped at one of the roadblocks described in this post, or if you know someone directly who was, then William Thornton, a reporter for al.com, would like to talk to you. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter, he is @wthorn7. Thank you.
On several occasions and at several different locations this past weekend, Bibb County and St. Clair County law enforcement officers set up roadblocks to collect blood and DNA samples from motorists as part of a federal study on impaired driving. The study is being conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, working with the National Highway Safety Administration. Motorists were paid $10 for a cheek swab, and $50 for blood collection.
Motorists were told that participation was voluntary and anonymous. Federal and state officials repeated these assertions this afternoon.
A National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration spokesperson told ABC 33/40 in Birmingham that they were working on an answer as to why DNA was required for anonymous research on impaired driving.
Now it’s reported that “off duty” officers staffed these checkpoints, but I’m going to presume they were in their uniforms and duty belts, else it’s just a bunch of guys trying to wave traffic down, which doesn’t sound particularly effective.
So there are guns. Does an armed police officer asking you to do something meet your customary definition of “voluntary”?
The involved officials claim that anyone refusing was free to go. There are anecdotal reports that such was not the case. I’ve read in a couple of places that if you refused, you got your license run. I’ve read in those same places that if you refused, you got your car searched. And, I’ve read in one place that refusers were actually detained for a time. I hope we hear directly from someone who refused soon, and if there is corroborating audio and/or video, so much the better.
Folks, even if it’s just like they say and no one was harassed, it’s still outrageous. It is not all right for law enforcement officers to stop traffic arbitrarily and ask for blood and cheek swabs for federal government research. (Oh, and did I mention this happened between 10 pm and 3 am?) I can easily imagine one of my boys (in a few years) coming home with a story of having submitted to this, because he felt intimidated.
Want to guess how well that would play at my house?
There are a lot of unanswered questions here. I’ll be finding out a lot more about this study and the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. There are also quite a few letters to write. Some of those are going to be cordial suggestions to my state and local officials that they tell the federal government to piss up a rope if this “request” comes again. (Because the federal government does a bang-up job with privacy and liberty, you know.)
We’re losing our country right before our eyes. And we’ve now raised an entire generation of people who don’t know to resist. Call them the Surveillance Generation.
Push back. Now. Hard!