Tuesday, 22 June 2004

Meanwhile, back in Boston...

As first noted in a comment last week in this blog, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has already begun stopping “T” rail passengers and demanding identification, under threat that travellers will be detained, not merely expelled from T property, if they are unable or unwilling to provide satisfactory identification.

According to the comment posted here , T police have also lied to those they stop and question, telling them that “it was a requirement from the TSA” to identify themselves, even though other transit police have told me publicly that’s not part of the TSA’s rail security directives.

The MBTA had earlier announced that it would begin both ID checks and searches of transit passengers. Amid growing controversy , the T began limiting itself to discussion of random bag searches and “assured the ACLU of Massachusetts [CLUM] that it will not implement a policy that would allow transit police to stop subway passengers for identification checks”, according to a CLUM news release .

But in a lengthy interview and debate today on National Public Radio, CLUM executive director Carol Rose confirmed that CLUM has been receiving reports from T passengers who, like the poster to my blog, have been stopped for ID checks.

Rose said she and others from CLUM were to meet with MBTA officials today in an attempt to clarify what the T is doing. It remains unclear whether T police are requiring mere verbal self-identification, or credentials or other documentary evidence of identification — a distinction that could be critical under the precedent set yesterday by the USA Supreme Court in Hiibel v. Nevada . And unlike Hiibel — with respect to whom the police claimed, at least after the fact, to have had a “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity — there’s no evidence that T police are relying on any Constitutionally sufficient basis of particularized suspicion.

Amazingly, T police themselves have publicly questioned the stops and searches. The Boston Herald reported that:

MBTA cop union President Robert Powers said he is concerned random checks will mean lawsuits.

“The only way we can search is with probable cause,” Powers said. He added he doubts all bags on the T can be checked: “We have a million people a day with backpacks, briefcases and lunch bags. Are we going to check all of them?”

Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 22 June 2004, 14:43 ( 2:43 PM)
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