30.10.14

PAPERS PLEASE.

I'm back from an extended train trip.  More details anon.  First, though, a public service announcement.  On one leg of the trip I was visited by two plainclothes officers (with credentials in plain view) whose stated purpose was to check for fake ID or counterfeit tickets.  OK, the ticket stipulates "ID Required" and police officers probably know something about fake ID.  Bogus rail tickets, probably not so much.  In any event, I presented the requested items.  One officer is looking at the ticket.  "Where did you get on?"  [Gave station shown on the ticket].  "What were you doing there?"

"What business is that of yours?"

"Sir, I'm not trying to be argumentative."

Partner chimes in, "Since nine-eleven we've been making spot checks on trains."

Me:  "Officer [lastname], nine-eleven does not trump the Constitution.  Citizens retain the right to travel freely within the borders, without obligation to tell officials the purpose of their trip."

Partner again:  "We're just having a conversation.  You don't have to participate in this conversation."

Me.  "Thank you.  Stay safe."

I will be doing further checking on these informal interrogations and will report what I learn here.

Rail passengers ought note that Amtrak tossed the Transportation Security Agency out of Savannah, Georgia, for an improper checkpoint, and the American Civil Liberties Union have been following intrusive police practices on Amtrak for some time.
If Amtrak police want to help keep us safe, they should come up with smarter policies for detecting and addressing criminal activity. Vague and overbroad standards don't help anyone — passengers are at risk of harassment by police for lawful actions, and Amtrak makes finding the needle near impossible by vastly enlarging the size of the haystack.
Yes, and "come with us for a little talk" is a standard phrase used by MVD and the like.

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