, Newburyport, MA


November 28, 2012

Suit should prompt closer look at sobriety checkpoints


They should look again.

It is not wise to bring members of the public into situations of potential conflict with law enforcement for no good reason. People get nervous, civilians and police officers alike can misinterpret actions or react poorly and, as Howe’s case illustrates, the results can be fatal.

It is likely that Howe’s behavior that fateful night contributed to his death. Had he reacted differently, he probably would have been sent on his way. But the point is there was no reason for Howe to have been stopped at all that night. While it is true that Howe should not have struggled with police, whatever minor infractions he committed that night certainly did not warrant his death.

Police should aggressively pursue all those who are driving erratically or unsafely. Those found to be driving under the influence should be arrested and prosecuted.

That’s not what sobriety checkpoints do. The checkpoints sweep up drivers at random and subject them to close police scrutiny — effectively compelling them to prove their innocence. The number of officers deployed at a checkpoint monitoring traffic on a single road might better serve public safety by patrolling a number of highways and pulling over those drivers actually seen committing offenses.

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