ARE ALL TRAFFIC STOPS RACIST?
By Hessie Harris
BILL 12-23-23 will prohibit traffic stops. That means traffic stops to check suspected violations of licensing, registration, and certificate of title and insurance will be prohibited. In Montgomery County, the most frequent crime is carjacking, most often by youth.
Carjackers have upped the ante. They are not only stealing cars, but also robbing, assaulting, kidnapping, and sometimes murdering victims. Hence if an officer reasonably suspects that a vehicle is stolen, perhaps because of a citizen complaint, reports or BOLOs, he may stop the vehicle and ask for license, registration, certificates of ownership and insurance. If the driver does not produce the requisite documents or they are not current, the reasonable suspicion rises to the level of probable cause which allows the officer to undertake a non-consent search of the vehicle, if the driver does not consent to a search.
However, under BILL 12-23, vehicle searches are prohibited whether by consent or without it. Similarly, if there was a question of defective headlights or the absence of one, or the same with taillights, or an illuminated license, the police officer could reasonably suspect that the vehicle had been stolen. After all, the conditions could be the result of a hasty exit from a carjacking, or a carjacking which was involved in a police chase. Given the possibility of injuries, including fatal, some police officers would abort the chase. Once again, a traffic stop and request for above-referenced documents would be legitimate, and their absence a violation of the law no matter who the individual was, their race, ethnicity or occupation.
Also violating the regulations governing defective equipment would prevent a vehicle from passing yearly inspection but BILL 12-23 would prevent a traffic stop and require those violations to be ignored.
BILL 12-23 prohibits an officer from a pedestrian stop of a jay walker. Statistics on pedestrian injuries and deaths through accidents show the prohibition to be specious. The role of a police officer is to protect and serve. If a citation is a warning and prevents other deaths, the officer has done his duty.
BILL 21-23 also generically prohibits stops for unnamed ‘minor violations” making that unidentified classification impossible to respond to, as is the case with violations described “various procedures under Title 22”.
BILL 21-23 limits police officers’ authority regarding consensual and nonconsensual vehicle searches in a most bizarre way. If a driver consents to a vehicle search, BILL 12-23 holds that the driver is held to have not consented to a search and that the police officer is then only allowed to make a search under the standards of reasonable suspicion AND probable cause. Those are the standards that must be met for non-consent searches and only one has to be met as probable cause is the higher standard. Furthermore, the then non-consensual search is confined to a criminal offense, provided it is committed during the stop. That prevents the police from a consensual or non-consensual search of the vehicle. That means that if the driver has drugs, guns, or illegal aliens secreted in the vehicle, they would never be discovered.
If one is confused, it is suggested that they go back and read the paragraph slowly.
BILL 21-23 states that the provisions of same are not to be subject to collective bargaining. If the intent is to override working conditions or a police officer’s right to grieve disciplinary action, per the union contract, that cannot legally be done. Neither BILL 12-23, nor any other bill of its type can unilaterally limit, abrogate, suspend, deny or dismiss the terms of a properly negotiated collective bargaining agreement.
Hessie L. Harris is a Member of the Maryland Republican Central Committee from Montgomery County.