Criminal Justice

Searching For a Bankrobber? Why not Handcuff Every Adult at a Traffic Stop?

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In the annals of crime-fighting, this one could be a lot worse. Still, it doesn't bode well for criminal justice as surgical precision strikes of bad guy-getting when you prevent 40 people from going about their day for two hours in order to catch one suspect. This is what police in Aurora, Colorado did last week.

ABC News reports that police in Aurora were hunting for an armed bank-robber suspect. They had a tip that the individual — name, gender, or identifying features beyond hoodie-clad apparently not known — was stopped at an intersection. So instead of not searching all 20 or so of the cars at the light, they decided to…search all 20 or so cars at that intersection: 

"Most of the adults were handcuffed, then were told what was going on and were asked for permission to search the car," [Aurora police officer Frank] Fania said. "They all granted permission, and once nothing was found in their cars, they were un-handcuffed."

The entire process took two hours. 

A local Colorado affiliate quoted one of the folks pulled over by police:

"Cops came in from every direction and just threw their car in front of my car," said Sonya Romero, who was one of the drivers handcuffed. "We all got cuffed until they figured out who did what."Ben Barker watched the ordeal and told 7NEWS police were armed with shot guns and rifles."We didn't know if we were in the line of fire or what the hell was happening," Romero said.

The ABC reporter intones that the drivers were "told nothing" about what was happening and that they were taken by shielded, gun-toting cops and made to put their hands over their heads. 

Fittingly, the suspect who was arrested and charged and was found to be in possession of two loaded handguns, was in the last car that police searched. Then everyone else was free to go. So-called legal expert Jim Miller, interviewed by ABC, suggests that the detainments are lawsuit-worthy because police couldn't "point to any one these person that they stopped" with "an articulable suspicion" that that person was guilty.

Chasing a suspect is one thing, but even an armed robber is not necessarily an imminent threat to any and every one. Police assured ABC that each driver consented to the search of their car, but if the cops barreled in cowboy-style, guns out, as described, to refuse a search would not have been easy. 

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  1. Back when people cared, the notion that you could give valid consent at gunpoint was risible.

  2. Too bad no one got it on video.

    One wonders why the cops didn’t just detain them as material witnesses (though that wouldn’t justify the search).

    1. Cuffs wouldn’t have come off for them.

  3. Sue them until their eyes bleed. Yeah, I know it’s the people who actually pay, but at least it would discourage this type of shit in the future.

    1. …but at least it would discourage this type of shit in the future.

      Why? Since they are not paying there is no incentive for them to care.

  4. The cops will probably see granted a motion to suppress the evidence they seized this way from the actual perp.

  5. “Most of the adults were handcuffed, then were told what was going on and were asked for permission to search the car”

    Police assured ABC that each driver consented to the search of their car

    Because nothing says “consent” like being handcuffed, with the clear implication that you will remain handcuffed in a custodial situation unless you “voluntarily consent” to your car being searched.

    All these victims should sue the crap out of the police department, and press criminal charges against the police officers for false imprisonment.

    1. that is what I was thinking too. Also the handcuffes means they were clearly not free to leave. It was thus a “custodial interrogation”. So the cops couldn’t ask them anything without first reading them their miranda rights.

      So even if the cops had found something in the car, chances are the evidence would have been inadmissible. They are just a bunch of drunken baboons turned lose on the public.

      1. Yeah. If I’m handcuffed, its lawyers and warrants from there on out.

  6. Cute girls get cuffed first. At what point can we just declare police departments bondage clubs in the name of truth in advertising?

    1. That’s a hoodie wearin’ Colorado gang banger…with a pink floatie. Can’t take chances.

  7. They all granted permission, and once nothing was found in their cars, they were un-handcuffed.

    There is no way I would grant permission, even (or especially) under those circumstances. That’s ridiculous.

    1. No kidding. Assuming that I didn’t fear for my life (which is a real possibility depending on how they were conducting themselves — remember, they shoot THEMSELVES on occasion), I think that something along the lines of “Game on, pigs!” would have run across my mind… Too much Boston T, perhaps.

  8. Fittingly, the suspect who was arrested and charged and was found to be in possession of two loaded handguns, was in the last car that police searched.

    Come on Lucy, you’re better than this. Don’t you always find something in the last place you look?

    1. Touche. If they had kept looking after the captured the guy, Lucy’s complaint would no longer be valid. I mean it wouldn’t have been found in the last car. But I don’t think that is the result she really wants.

      1. It’s obvious she meant the 20th car out of 20 is the one they found the bad guy in. I just think a journalist of her caliber could have come up with a better phrase than “they found it in the last place they looked.”

        1. But your point is more valid than that. They had to have found him in the last car because they quit looking when they found him. So as wrong as this was, the fact that he was in the last place they looked doesn’t make it more wrong.

          1. They had to have found him in the last car because they quit looking when they found him.

            That is the entirety of the point of the tautological statement about finding something in the last place you look.

    2. Actually, its not exactly a given that a bunch of cops will stop harassing people just because they’ve arrested the perp. So I give her a pass on this one.

  9. Its not unconstitutional because they searched everyone, just like a DUI checkpoint. Dear God help us.

    1. There was a DUI checkpoint the other weekend near me. 275 stops. 1 DUI arrest. And one kid got the klink for MJ possession.

      But we have to do this. For the children.

      1. I imagine it was part of the nationwide “Wear your seatbelt or we will take money from you” campaign. The locals here were handing out lots of overtime for that.

        1. Do y’all have the surfer dude talking about how gnarly it is to wear your seatbelt, etc.? Or the car warning voice telling you she can’t buckle it for you? Please tell me that it’s not just people in Georgia that have to listen to them.

          1. Radio ads, that is, I’m sure everybody has the “ha, they’re trying to make the cop think they’re buckled but they’re really not and the cops have seen it all before and they’re not fooling anybody” TV ads.

    2. Its not unconstitutional because they searched everyone,…

      Well, the constitution protects “individual” rights, and this was a “group.” See the difference?

  10. I’d probably get myself shot – or at least thrown in jail – if this happened to me, because I’d certainly “resist arrest”, even if it wasn’t really an arrest.

    1. Oh, I could go passive when it suits my interests; but you better believe I’m collecting every minute detail about the guys who dared pull a gun on me. I will eventually fuck you over in triplicate right back on my own terms and schedule.

  11. Fittingly, the suspect who was arrested and charged and was found to be in possession of two loaded handguns, was in the last car that police searched.

    I would hope so. Kind of like the old adage “it’s always in the last place you look”. Duh, why would you keep looking after you already found whatever you were looking for?

    My cynical side is kind of suprised they didn’t keep searching the rest of the cars just to see if they could find anything else to arrest more people for. Crime fighting is so much easier without those pesky “rights”.

    1. “Duh, why would you keep looking after you already found whatever you were looking for?”

      Well, I suppose this does suggest that they were actually looking for something, which, given what they were doing, is not a given.

    2. It’s like d?j? vu all over again.

      1. Vuja de!

  12. Ahh, I grew up in Aurora. Good thing I got the fuck out…

  13. Were any dogs shot? If not, the cops be slackin’, yo.

  14. Umm, wouldn’t that be false arrest and wrongful imprisonment? You don’t have to go to jail to be arrested, you know.

  15. Also, if a shootout occurred with the actual robber(s), the people who were handcuffed would’ve been sitting targets. What an epic clusterfuck.

  16. Good job in making sure that bank robber gets to exclude all the evidence you found because you conducted an illegal search. Stupid cops.

  17. The Aurora police chief should be handcuffed, paraded through the street, thrown in jail for 30 days and never be allowed to work in law enforcement anywhere in the country ever again.

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