What never got reported was Tuesday's massive highway roadblock and car to car searches by armed law enforcement officers in Maryland. Were there warrants for these searches? No. Was there reasonable cause to stop every commuter at 10a.m. on a Tuesday morning? No.
"When I saw a wall of police officers with automatic weapons approaching our cars, it was apparent that something serious was taking place," one commuter told local media.
Rockville city, Montgomery County, and Maryland State Police blocked both lanes of Interstate 270 with more than 30 police vehicles, numerous dogs, helicopters, and officers going to car to car with weapons drawn as seen here:
What caused this open manhunt and dismissal of the citizen's 4th Amendment rights? A bank robbery where the three suspects were believed to have driven their getaway car onto the freeway.
Motorist Carlton Higdon told local reporters there was, "a lot of yelling, a lot of orders being given... helicopters, dogs barking, sirens, police cars driving by".
Traffic backed up for miles on the freeway for over an hour with no explanation from police. Commuters exiting their vehicles to see what was happened were met with hostility from police. As one woman leaned out of her vehicle to vomit she was yelled at by an officer to stay inside and close her door. I suppose she's supposed to puke inside her car while they trample her rights.
During this encounter motorists were approached by armed officers and ordered at gunpoint to submit to warrantless searches of their vehicles. According to one witness police were just walking along, weapons drawn ordering people to "Pop the trunk! Pop the trunk!". He overheard a man in a truck next to him call out to another motorist: The police are looking for bank robbers. Shortly after, about nine officers approached his car - including state police in tan uniforms, county police in dark uniforms and at least one plainclothes officer wearing a yellow tie.
Is it possible that there were consensual searches? Is anything ordered at gunpoint consensual? Reportedly not one person was brave enough (foolish enough?) to refuse the hostile violation of the 4th Amendment. Would you be?
Montgomery County Police Captain Paul Starks described the searches as an operation of "systematically checking the trunks and rear hatches" of the vehicles caught in the roadblock.
Rockville Police Chief Tom Manger remained defiant and unapologetic when he told local station WTOP, "For those folks that wondered how is that the police can just walk through traffic like that and get folks to show their hands, get folks to pop their trunks, between the exigency of the circumstances and the information that we had, it gave us the legal foundation to do what we did".
The massive roadblock and 4th Amendment violations did net the bank robbers and the stolen $7,000 dollars. The robbers were found in their vehicle and did not resist when taken into custody. They were not found hiding in anyone else's trunk.
Of course, by putting armed criminals into a miles long roadblock authorities made it more likely they would take someone hostage or commandeer an innocent bystanders vehicle. Some will say that the ends justify the means and as long as the robbers were arrested, the "operation was worth it".
Was the roadblock worth it? Not if you believe in the principles of "liberty and justice for all". The criminals were caught, but the innocent motorists were treated as part of the crime during warrantless searches by officers with weapons drawn simply because they happened to be on a stretch of highway going about their day.
Was this Maryland's "Intro to Police State" class?