Tampa Tribune – Mar 8, 2006:

A Tampa police sergeant awaiting discipline in four internal investigations may have violated motorists’ Fourth Amendment rights by manipulating traffic signals to check license plates, public records show.

Sgt. Gene Strickland told his supervisors in a May memorandum released Tuesday that he wanted to put a dent in downtown auto thefts. So he electronically manipulated traffic signals at three Tampa Heights intersections near public housing complexes, keeping the signals red long enough to run a computer check on a motorist’s license plate.

“The tag comes back clean, I turned it green,” Strickland said Tuesday.



  1. jasontheodd says:

    We have different violations of civil rights here in Mo. Cameras photograph license plates of people who run red lights. And the owner of the car gets mailed a ticket, even if they weren’t driving. There have been a few news stories about people getting charged with failure to appear in court and getting arrested even though they never got the ticket in the mail. Welcome to Russia.

  2. randmeister says:

    Run a red light, get a ticket. It seems simple to me. Sorry, but I have no sympathy for the “you’re violating my rights” arguement. I have a right to cross a street or drive through an intersection without getting killed. I think this is a similar issue to the speed-limit story – some people believe their time is more important than yours, therefore it is okay if they run the red light and risk the safety of others.

    BTW, If your friend runs a red light in your car, beat the crap out of him.

  3. vortec42 says:

    How is running a license plate “searching” ?

  4. randmeister says:

    I’ll admit to making an error in judgement – sometimes I think a light will stay yellow longer than it does.

    A possible solution: put a countdown timer on the yellow light. If a driver could see there were only 2 seconds left, most people would not choose to blast through.

    Another possible solution: when the light turns red, big rubber bands pop up out of the street to stop cars going through the red light.

  5. david says:

    Power corrupts.

  6. Jared says:

    The problem with automatic red-light ticket generators is that moving violations put points on your license. How in the world can they charge you with a moving violation when they can’t even be sure you were driving?

    I agree I’d rather have safer streets, but I’d also rather the police don’t f*@k with my insurance and my driving record unless they can prove it was me.

  7. jasontheodd says:

    Jared

    Thank you, Somebody got half my point. The other half was the thing about granny being arrested because grandson ran a light, and the Ticket was late getting mailed.

  8. Chuck says:

    Manipulating the light this way is the equivalent of setting up a road block and checking everyone’s identity. (i know that it is legal to do those roadblcoks, but I don’t think that is constitutional either!)

    I remember there was a time when we looked down on the USSR and Soviet bloc countries because of their practice of stopping citizens at random without probable cause. This practice has now become a reality in the “land of the free.”

  9. walkerk says:

    Another look at “stoplight cameras” in this month’s Popular Mechanics:

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/automotive/auto_technology/2420766.html

  10. david says:

    “Manipulating the light this way is the equivalent of setting up a road block and checking everyone’s identity.

    Chuck, you got it right:

    MANIPULATE the light
    SET UP a road block

    The light was already set up to turn green after a 30 second (for example) red. By the sergeant MANipulating the time to extend to 34 seconds he is breaking the law of the length of a red light. A road block is a road block. A road block is not a road block when it is set up outside your drive way.

  11. malren says:

    Question: If the cop was NOT manipulating the lights in any way, simply sitting at the camera feed and typing REALLY fast…would you consider that a violation of the 4th? How would that be different from a cruiser running your plate when you;re driving in stop& go traffic ahead of him?

    That question asked…the act of manipulating the lights seems like it is wrong. It seems like a blatant violation of probable cause as he has actively stopped a vehicle for no reason whatsoever.

    Chuck: Don’t get carried away with the hyperbole. One or two or even two dozen cops in various places does not equate to Soviet Russia using a national police force to scare and detain the citizenry. You sound like a crazed moron when you try to call this country the equivalent to the U.S.S.R.

  12. david says:

    malren, let’s say you are in a Starbuck’s drinking a latte while writing an innocous comment on this blog when all of a sudden you have to relieve yourself in the bathroom. You leave you laptop wide open as you dissappear for a minute (assuming you live in an affluent area where there is almost 0% chance of laptop missing when you get back). Just when you got up, your boss saw you as he stepped in. He went over to your laptop and read the comment you wrote and found it totally against his belief. He leaves without you ever knowing he read it. The following day he fires you.

    Respecting privacy is of utmost importance in an open society. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know if a police officer is running your license plate. He shouldn’t be, period. Out of respect for you and the law and God.

  13. Mike Novick says:

    Roadblocks and drunk driving checkpoints have been happening, and this is less intrusive than that.

  14. Dan says:

    David,

    The day a cop randomly runs your the license of your stolen car is the day you’ll be happy to get your car back. Things are not balck and white like you saying: ”It doesn’t matter if you don’t know if a police officer is running your license plate. He shouldn’t be, period.”

  15. Sounds The Alarm says:

    If traffic violations were really for safety reasons, I would have an issue. The cold hard fact is that the real role of traffic citations if revenue enhancement for the federal, state or local G involved.

    Witness the number of cops on traffic vs the number busting real criminals, ie violent offenders, druggies, neocons etc.

  16. joshua says:

    lmao @ sounds……arresting *neocons*

  17. Mr. Fusion says:

    Red Light tickets are not considered moving violations. They are the same as a parking ticket. The parking ticket / red light ticket are attached to the car. So if you lend your car to your cousin and he gets a ticket, let him pay it. A moving violation is against the driver. The driver must be presented with the ticket.

    As for our rights being eroded and comparing them to the USSR, don’t make me laugh. I guess you guys never heard of J. Edger Hoover and his little bag of tricks. Or even the local Police Department and their interrogation methods. You never had a right to call a lawyer until 1966 with the Miranda Decision. A Constitutional Right? Fuggetabutit. Until the 1950s these rights were mostly a decoration on someone’s wall.

    Checking license plates? Go for it. Delaying cars for a few seconds at a red light? It might only hurt if you have a woman about to deliver on your way to the hospital. This is one of the intrusions, along with roadside breathalyser stops that I support. There is not enough of an inconvenience to innocent people to warrant any concern. If the delay was for more then a few seconds, then I might change my mind.

  18. Tod White says:

    Seems to me, a lot of people NEED to re-read the Amendment…
    Running your plate, whether he’s doing it while you are driving, or being pulled over, WITHOUT PROBABLE CAUSE, is unconstituional!

    Same FAULTY argument as to the current rights-violations being done by so-called “homeland security”. (Gee, if you’re innocent, why should you worry?)

    Your Rights are YOURS, NOT “Government Permissions”!
    And, your Rights need to be jelously protected!

    So, if you think this type of erosion is OK, then tell me, do I now say “Heil Officer”?… or do I look for some of the older USSR-KGB salutes?
    OR, should we just go whole-hog and use the current Chinese requirement and believe that anybody with a badge CAN’T be wrong?

    So MANY times people have just said “Oh, he’s doing it for the public good! I’m SURE we’ll get our rights back when the problem is corrected…”

    and, so it goes…….


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