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


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. 

Reason on criminal justice