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D.C. to drop controversial checkpoints

The D.C. government has agreed not to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appellate court ruling that checkpoints set up by District police in neighborhoods beset by violence are unconstitutional.

The decision is part of a settlement filed in federal court in the District. It ends the use of a controversial crime-fighting tactic police had argued was needed to protect citizens during spates of violence.

But some residents and activists said the roadblocks used to screen those entering the troubled neighborhoods infringed upon the Constitutional rights of those who drove through them.

As part of the settlement, filed Aug. 26, officials agreed to end the checkpoint initiative, known as the Neighborhood Safety Zone Program. Three plaintiffs who were stopped at a checkpoint in the summer of 2008 were each awarded $3,500.

“This is a major vindication for the Constitutional rights of the residents of the District of Columbia,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, an attorney for the Partnership for Civil Justice," which sued the District on behalf of four residents.

The roadblocks were used for 14 days in the summer of 2008 to screen those entering the Trinidad neighborhood in Northeast Washington after a series of shootings. They have not been used since.

In 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled the checkpoints unconstitutional.

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said the city used the checkpoints only under the most dire circumstances when people were “shooting the place up” and that the police have not needed to employ them since.

“I decided it was best to put the litigation to an end,” Nickles said. “There are other ways we can deal with a similar phenomena if it arises.”

Verheyden-Hilliard said the District’s decision to not challenge the ruling will discourage police departments nationwide from implementing similar programs.

-- Maria Glod

By Washington Post Editors  |  August 30, 2010; 6:45 PM ET
Categories:  From the Courthouse , Maria Glod , The District , Updates  
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Comments

"D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said the city used the checkpoints only under the most dire circumstances."

And on every AHOD......

Posted by: COPDC | August 30, 2010 10:51 PM | Report abuse

They should put up check points on capitol hill there you'll find real crooks

Posted by: bigheadbull2 | August 31, 2010 7:12 AM | Report abuse

LOL that is too funny, thank you for that morning laugh...check points on Capitol Hill that's where the real crooks are!!!

LMAO!!!

Posted by: shadon1 | August 31, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

I find it amazing that protecting the rights of criminals to have free access to protential victims out weights the rights of the victims to be safe.

Posted by: Jimof1913 | August 31, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

I find it amazing that people can't tell the difference between cops stopping only criminals versus cops stopping EVERYONE, including non-criminals.

Your so-called right to be safe does NOT outweigh my right to protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

Cops can't just stop and question people driving in a neighborhood.

If you want to live in a police state I'm pretty sure North Korea or Iran will let you in as soon as you denounce American citizenship...

Posted by: StanInVa | August 31, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

I didn't even know that someone actually sued the police for the checkpoints.

Wow, you can sue for anything...

Posted by: PublicEnemy1 | August 31, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

I can't believe anyone in their right mind would even implement such an unconstitutional practice in this country. What the hell were they thinking? For those who think it is OK to be unreasonably harassed and questioned by the police for simply driving down a public street and possibly arrested if you fail to provide a good enough explanation for being where you have every right to be, please move to Cuba.

Posted by: PepperDr | August 31, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

This was just another feel good action by MPD..it sounds good and looks good initially that you are screening what comes into a neighborhood but it was riddled with rights violations from the beginning....

This has happened for years in this country...where law enforcement will implement an action and hoping no one will contest it...those days are long gone now...

Posted by: pentagon40 | August 31, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if any of these people touting "Constitutional Rights" argumentsd have ever LIVED in any of the neighborhoods where the NSZs were set up. The places are already hell-holes and open air drug markets exist in abundance.

They are havens for lawlessness, criminal activity, and violent crime. If this is what the inhabitants of those neighborhoods want, then they have no right to complain about the lack of police presence in the area, since acting proactively to curb the aforementioned is a violation of their constitutional rights. Most of them probably havee never even read the constitution, let alone be able to tell you WHICH consitutional rights are being violated.

Oh well. I'm grateful that I'll never have to live in a community like that... ever.

Posted by: BLKManCommonSense | September 1, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

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