I haven't liked a lot of things the ACLU has done, but I'm with them on keeping a close eye on this:
Police in neon yellow vests stopped motorists traveling through the main thoroughfare of Trinidad — a neighborhood near the National Arboretum in the city's northeast section. Police checked drivers' identification and turned away those who didn't have a "legitimate purpose" in the area, such as a church visit or doctor's appointment.
The checkpoints were announced after eight people were killed in the city last weekend. Most of the killings occurred in the police district that includes. Already this year, the district has had 22 killings — one more than in all of last year.
The checkpoints have drawn harsh criticism from civil rights groups.
I'm not sure what constitutional grounds this could be challenged on. The Supreme Court in 1999 struck down an ordinance forbidding "gangs" from loitering, on freedom-to-assemble grounds. In 2000 (in a case from Indianapolis), it threw out on unreasonable-search grounds police roadblocks to randomly search for drugs. This case doesn't seem to have either 1st or 4th Amendment issues, however. No car will be searched unless drugs or guns are seen.
But there is something really creepy about the police stopping people at random to see if they live in the affected neighborhood and asking them to prove they have a "legitimate" reason for being there if they don't. Who decides what is "legitimate"? That's a little fuzzy and wide open to abuse. They're starting to call D.C. "Baghdad on the Potomac." Imagine that being done here -- "Baghdad on the Maumee." Imagine being stopped every time you dove into your neighborhood.
We can all appreciate the frustration of people having to live in crime-ridden areas. But this seems like an admission of failure, not a real way to fight the problem. Some will say too much of a fuss is being made over a program set to last only five days. But they're already saying it might be extended to 10 days. That's how a right can be lost. We accept a little encroachment, then a little more, then a little more, and before we know it we don't have the right to freely move about any longer. Sometimes, we make slippery-slope arguments because there really are slippery slopes.