The Chicago Police Department (CPD) today announced that next month it will start conducting random baggage screenings before passengers are allowed on the city's public rail system, which is operated by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).
First of all, why? "No known terrorist threat" led to the policy, admits the CPD's Nancy Lipman. However, the "procedure is being fully funded with part of a $3.5 million federal grant for anti-terrorism efforts but officials could not give a total dollar amount," reports Redeye.
If the customer is willing to take part in the screening, the outside bag he or she is carrying will be swabbed with a small cloth. The cloth is then inserted into a machine that detects the presence of explosive compounds.
Looking inside bags was deemed too intrusive.
"If they refuse to be screened and still attempt access to our systems, they are subject to arrest. It's up to our officer's discretion," Adam Paulsen, another representative of the department, tells the Chicago Tribune.
The surveillance will take place "several times a week" during rush hour, but don't worry, because getting hassled should take "less than a minute," so "we expect it to have no impact on a customer's commute time, says Lipman.
It's obnoxious, it's intrusive, it's paranoia-inducing, and most of all, it's just security theater. Redeye explains:
Chicago police say they will randomly select one rail station each day to set up the screening table outside the rail turnstiles. A team of four to five officers will man the table, which will have two explosives testing machines.
So if some lunatic wants to set off an explosive, he can just walk to the next nearest station, or one of the 139 others in the city.
Here's some predictions: Although hundreds of millions of rides take place annually, no one will get caught trying to sneak a bomb onto a train. There will be false alarms, and a lot of ticked-off, inconvenienced riders. Similar to other CPD policies, minorities will be profiled. Meanwhile, expect the city's out-of-control gun violence problem to persist in spite of strict gun laws.
Chicago's cops have a terrible track record. The city has spent over $500 million in the last decade on lawsuits involving officers. This summer cops were busy citing media-hyped bogus trends to justify using anti-riot tactics against teenagers.