Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Your Destination, Please

The Bellevue Police Department is continuing to trample on local teenager's Constitutional rights. As you may remember, last spring I blogged about how a friend of mine had her Fourth Amendment rights violated with a borderline illegal search of her car following a routine traffic stop. The reason given for the search? She was acting "suspicious" so the police had "no choice" but to search her car. This time, the teenager in question was my cousin. She was on her way to babysit at a friend's house in Bellevue when she was stopped by a Bellevue police officer because she was speeding. She had no problem with being stopped for speeding, because she admits she was speeding. However, the police officer then proceeded to interrogate her, demanding that she tell him where she was going, who she was going to be with, and why she was going there, among other things.

This is completely out of line. There is aboslutely no reason why a police officer should be interrogating an 18 year old girl about where she's going and why during a simple traffic stop. Setting aside the simple common sense privacy concerns, the Supreme Court has held that we have a "right to privacy" in this country. Now, whether or not you believe in that right, the Supreme Court has held that the said right exists. This would appear to be a clear violation of that right by a law enforcement organization. Next up, we have the fact that she was being interrogated by a police officer without probable cause, and without a warrant or being placed under arrest or being detained for questioning. In each of these cases, there are specific legal guards placed on the process to protect the citizen from the officer.

This police officer is accountable to no one, as evidenced by the treatment my aunt received. She called into the BPD and asked to speak to the officer. She stated that she had no problem with the speeding ticket, but she failed to understand why the officer needed to question her daughter. The officer responded with a statement that went something like (I'm paraphrasing) "I'm a police officer, therefore I have the right to question whoever I want to about whatever I want to, and there's nothing you can do about it."

Sounds like the good ol' U.S. of A to me. And remember, these are only the two cases that I've heard about. As I stated in my previous post, I have witnessed numerous traffic stops in Bellevue that had turned into full-on car and body searches. Race, make of car, time of day, all differed. The only thing that was constant was that all of those stopped and searched appeared to be teenagers.

I'm sorely tempted to go speeding in Bellevue to see what kind of Constitutional trouble I can get myself into. There's nothing I would like more than being able to tell the officers trying to search my car to get a warrant and to tell that arrogant "officer of (his) law" who questioned my cousin that I'm not going to answer his questions.

On a slightly more serious note, does anyone have any serious suggestions about what to do? It seems to me that unless I've witnessed two exceedingly rare coincidences, there appears to be a culture of discrimination against teenagers in the Bellevue Police Department. I know I could write a letter, but seeing as how a) I'm not a citizen of Bellevue, and b) none of this actually happened to me, I'm not sure that the letter writing route would get me anywhere. Your suggestions would be appreciated.