Thursday, 8 July 2004

Today, police dogs on buses. Tomorrow, bagels and coffee, too.

Yesterday would-be travellers on interstate commuter buses from New Hampshire to Boston were required to submit to searches and dog-sniffing of themselves and their baggage by police before being allowed to board. The Boston Globe reports that more searches are planned, while the Associated Press (via the Portsmouth [NH] Herald), has this to say about the basis for the searches:

Concord Trailways supports the searches, said Vice President Ken Hunter. He said no specific threat prompted the searches…. Hunter said buying a ticket means a passenger agrees to terms imposed by the company, which include consenting to a search.

[Police Capt. Bill] Hart said … “Our goal is to minimize the intrusion in busy commuters’ lives.”…

He said the next time the officers show up, they’ll bring coffee and bagels for passengers.

[Addendum, 8 July 2004: Here’s what the USA Supreme Court decided the last time it considered the Constitutionality of police boarding buses and asking for passengers’ “consent” to searches of themselves and their luggage, in U.S. v. Drayton in 2002, and what the Supreme Court dissenters had to say: “The bus was going nowhere, and with one officer in the driver’s seat, it was reasonable to suppose no passenger would tend to his own business until the officers were ready to let him.”]

Link | Posted by Edward on Thursday, 8 July 2004, 07:17 ( 7:17 AM)

From a quick reading, Drayton deals mostly with the question of whether police officers have to advise passengers of their right to refuse a search. I don't know whether the Londonderry passengers were informed of this right. It was stated in the news articles, though, that anyone who refused a search would have been stranded in Londonderry. Given the population distribution, most passengers would have gotten on in Concord or Manchester, and relatively few would be boarding in Londonderry. The police wouldn't be denying anyone reboarding (I hope); it was Trailways that was making that threat.

The search apparently was instigated by Trailways, so the question of the passenger-carrier contract comes to mind. If the bus company required you to submit to a search at the point of boarding, and refunded your ticket if you refused, I'd say everything was clean. But accepting a passenger, taking him 10 to 30 miles from home, and then saying, "Now you have to submit to a search or take a cab," sounds very dubious. This might be an area for legal investigation.

Posted by: garym, 9 July 2004, 04:47 ( 4:47 AM)

Police officers probably will continue to advise passengers of their right to refuse a search.

Posted by: Dog Lover, 5 August 2004, 00:10 (12:10 AM)
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