Appeals court disallows D.C. police checkpoints

Appeals court disallows D.C. police checkpoints

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Reprinted from Washington Examiner

A U.S. appeals court has slapped the District of Columbia with a restraining order forbidding Mayor Adrian Fenty and Police Chief Cathy Lanier from erecting any more police barricades to prevent violence.

Last summer after a spate of shootings in the Trinidad neighborhood, Fenty and Lanier tried to quarantine the neighborhood. They threw up checkpoints to stop motorists, check IDs, and turn back anyone without "legitimate business" in Trinidad.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the quarantine violated the Constitution.

"The harm to the rights of appellants is apparent," Chief Judge David B. Sentelle wrote for the panel, referring to the four residents who sued to stop the barricades. "... Citizens have a right to drive upon the public streets of the District of Columbia or any other city absent a constitutionally sound reason for limiting their access."

Sentelle, a Ronald Reagan appointee, concluded: "It is apparent that appellants' constitutional rights are violated."

Friday's 14-page decision reverses a lower court judge's order rejecting the temporary restraining order, and sends the case back to that court to be reconsidered.

"This is a major victory for civil rights and civil liberties for the people of the District of Columbia," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, who argued to stop the barricades. "The U.S. Court of Appeals has made clear that this blatantly unconstitutional program cannot continue."

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles, architect of the quarantine, said Friday that he may appeal Friday's decision.

"I'm disappointed. We're considering our options. The most important point is that we only used it twice last year in Trinidad," Nickles said.

Nickles claimed the barricades were "an important tool" that stemmed violence.

Police union Chairman Kris Baumann, an early and outspoken critic of the quarantine, said that rank-and-file officers deserve credit for having spoken out against the program.

"They were the watchdogs here. They knew it would ruin our relationships with the residents and they stood up for what was right," Baumann said.

bmyers@washingtonexaminer.com