NYPD: Keeping the Subways Safe from Terrorists, One Hipster's Bag at a Time!
Every time I hear the announcement in the subway that the NYPD can look at "backpacks and other large packages" without probable cause, I mentally insert "according to the 'there's no such law, and it actually should be an unconstitutional search, but the pussy court said it isn't.'" because I think riding public transportation does not mean I give up my Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. I've written about this topic before, but it's been awhile and I've finally been "selected" for search, but I wasn't.
I have no idea if this policy, which I believe will turn three years old this year, has deterred a single terrorist, but I sincerely doubt it.
I've often questioned the method they use to pick out who to search. I myself, up until a month or so ago, had walked past at least a hundred of these checkpoints without having been stopped. I stood and watched at my station about a month before I was "selected" to see who they stopped and it did, indeed, seem random. White guy here, black lady there, Latino over there. Well dressed dude, then a hipster, then a scatily clad woman. No rhyme or reason, but it made me wonder, again, how did I not get stopped in over a hundred times passing? They were stopping maybe every tenth person or so, but not specifically, so statistically, I should have been stopped several times over the years. If it's not profiling they're doing, then what is it? and how did I get my free pass?
Well, the day finally came at my station, where I see the checkpoints about once a week (usually, but not always on a Monday); "Sir..." said the heavy set, but quite young, male cop gesturing to the folding table. I'm very proud to say I did what I had always said I would. I didn't stop walking and said, "I'll walk to the next station." "Okay," was the only response and I had a nice seven minute walk on a nice day, there was, of course, no checkpoint there and I maybe got to work 5 minutes later than I would have.
I'm a law abiding citizen. There was no gun, drugs or contraband in my bag (let alone a bomb); I simply objected to being searched. The question is, as it always has been, if by whatever their trade secreted method they use they actually managed to pick out the guy with the bomb or the nerve gas cannister, wouldn't he or she be trained to do exactly what I did?
Personally, these checkpoints do not make me feel safer; instead they remind me of the false sense of security that is all the NYPD can provide us with regarding terrorism in the subway. When the attack comes (and it will), checkpoints in subway stations are not going to stop it. I just hope whenever it does happen, that it's after November 4, 2008.
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