DC cops abandon checkpoints after night of violence
Nick Juliano
Published: Friday June 13, 2008

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Police in Washington, DC, have abandoned checkpoints it established in an unsafe neighborhood after a night of violence saw eight shootings elsewhere in the city. The checkpoints were criticized by civil libertarians as "police state" tactics more appropriate for Baghdad or Soviet-era East Berlin than the nation's capital.

Local authorities offered few specifics as to why they decided on Thursday to stop checking identification for every person driving into a neighborhood in Northeast DC, but they claimed the mission was a success because there were no shootings in the neighborhood, known as Trinidad, during the six days the checkpoints were in place. On Wednesday night, eight people, including an 11-year-old girl, were shot elsewhere in the city; none died.

The Washington Post reports that some local officials criticized the heavy-handed police tactics and noted that such authoritarian approaches would be unlikely to decrease crime overall.

The program, in which all drivers must justify their purpose for being in a targeted area, has been criticized by civil rights groups, D.C. council members and residents who said police are overstepping their power.

"As crime occurs elsewhere in this city, they're going to have to go back to community policing," said council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), who is holding a hearing Monday on the initiative.

"Checkpoints aren't going to stop crime," Mendelson said.

Under community policing strategies, officers work with residents to find solutions. Lanier did not seek community input before launching the checkpoint, a source of complaint from some residents. But other residents praised the effort.

The checkpoint plan followed other civil liberties-unfriendly proposals from DC police struggling to quell violent crime in the city. Previous proposals included a venture that would have had police going door-to-door in rough neighborhoods asking residents to "voluntarily" submit to warrantless searches of their homes. That plan was temporarily abandoned after citizen complaints, but police are moving forward with a plan to centrally network and continuously monitor thousands of closed-circuit video cameras throughout the city.

Police decided to shut down the checkpoint just a day after they said they would extend them through the weekend. Local blog DCist notes the confusion probably wasn't the best way to inspire confidence in the police.

"Way to make everyone feel like this thing has been well thought out, guys," the blog quips.