Tue, 10/06/2020 – 18:25
It comes after an investigation by Spotlight PA and The Appeal was published on Monday which found that Troopers in high drug trafficking areas “often use minor traffic stops and shoddy affidavits to hold and search people illegally.”
In many cases, charges wind up being dismissed or challenged in court. Troopers would use “vague or boilerplate” language to justify a search of people’s vehicles, the investigation found. Due to a lack of probable causes, cases would be tossed out by a judge or challenged, successfully, by defendants. More than half of the cases reviewed involved charges against black people.
Spotlight had previously found that “Pennsylvania State Police had quietly stopped tracking the race of drivers who get pulled over during traffic stops” last year. They are now collecting the data again, which will be organized and studied by the University of Cincinnati, before being released next year.
Lt. Col. Scott Price, deputy commissioner of operations, told Spotlight PA: “The four corners of the affidavit is what establishes probable cause. We shouldn’t be seeing boilerplate language. We have to rely on our front-line supervisors to make sure these affidavits are legally adequate. If you’re seeing boilerplate language, that’s not appropriate. We expect to see some common language.”
OIG spokesman Jonathan Hendrickson said: “The Office of State Inspector General is reviewing the available information to ensure that protocols were followed and training is appropriate regarding these traffic stops. The work of this review is well within the agency’s mission.”
The practice is being compared to a “highway stop and frisk”. Troopers are said to pull over as many people as possible for minor traffic infractions in order to find drugs, which can then be used to justify future stops. But this tactic also results in innocent people being targeted and searched illegally.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Tom Wolf said: “During stops, actions should never be taken outside of those protocols taught in training and reports should be completed using the proper protocols. We are asking the Inspector General to conduct an independent review to be sure protocols were followed and training is appropriate regarding these types of stops.”
The State Police said they welcome the inquiry and see “it as an opportunity to demonstrate our continued progress in these areas of concern to the citizenry we serve.”
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Author: Tyler Durden