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December 11, 2007

Comments

Matthew Stecker

Holy goodness that's awesome. Did you come up with "a truly Kafkaesque phalanx" spontaneously?

KeepDurhamDifferent!

Posting warning of checkpoint sparks debate
By BriAnne Dopart : The Herald-Sun
bdopart@heraldsun.com
Dec 11, 2007

DURHAM -- Not long after he and his wife sat waiting at a DWI checkpoint on Gregson Street on their way home late Saturday after a night of dinner and the theater, David Rollins did what he considered to be a courtesy for his tech savvy neighbors.

He sent a quick note to those on the online Trinity Park message board cautioning them about the checkpoint and the potential threat to drunk drivers.

"I find these operations to be an unreasonable violation of my Fourth Amendment rights, but I have no purpose here other than to warn those who have been out drinking and have mobile e-mail, such as myself," Rollins wrote.

The morning after Rollins' post, a frequent contributor to the same message board asked Rollins if he really felt it was responsible to "warn intoxicated drivers who would normally choose to use our neighborhood streets."

By Monday, the question and the post that preceded it had sparked a noisy debate on Trinity Park's ever percolating message board.

Standing by his initial post, Rollins told The Herald-Sun he didn't find his actions irresponsible and will post again if he's aware of another checkpoint within neighborhood boundaries.

A self-described Libertarian who says holiday checkpoints shouldn't give police the rights to nose around civilian's private vehicles, Rollins said sending such cautionary messages is a way of asserting his constitutional rights.

Rollins said he had a few beers the night of the checkpoint but his wife was driving. As he watched what he described in a later post as "a truly Kafkaesque phalanx of flares, dogs, nine state patrol cars, and at least two dozen highway patrolmen," he became appalled.

"It was pretty clear from the drug sniffing dogs [used by police at the checkpoint] that they were looking for something other than drunk drivers," Rollins told The Herald-Sun.

While he said he has no problem with law enforcement stopping someone who is weaving or giving probable cause, Rollins said he finds it to be a violation of our rights concerning illegal search and seizure when police simply stop someone to question them and review their identification.

If Rollins sticks by his word and continues to warn message board members of checkpoints, message board regular Newman Aguiar doesn't think those posts are anything Trinity Park residents will be interested in reading.

The first person to question Rollins' post, Aguiar said he posted not to scold Rollins but to open a discussion.

Of the opinion that DWI checkpoints are necessary and that "using [the Trinity Park message board] to warn intoxicated drivers is a dangerous thing," Aguiar said he disagreed with the intent of Rollins message.

So did others, one of whom called Rollins' post "juvenile and irresponsible" and another who said they felt drivers "gave up their rights" when they get behind the wheel while impaired.

Also in disagreement was Ellen Dagenhart, who responded to Rollins' post with a heartfelt message about her friend Mike who was killed more than 20 years ago by a drunk driver. When she sees a checkpoint, Dagenhart wrote, she thinks of her friend.

While she didn't like the intent of Rollins' post, Dagenhart told The Herald-Sun that she does respect his right to post it.

"I wouldn't want to muzzle anyone's free speech here in Durham," she said. "God knows, we speak very freely here."

Aguiar, who says he is a strong believer in the value of Durham's many message boards which, he said give people "the ability to discuss the wide range of differing opinions," is not concerned about message boards morphing into tools that could be used to generate more of the types of posts he considers dangerous.

"There didn't seem to be an interest on our listserv in seeing those posts, other than from maybe one or two people," Aguiar said.

While only a couple of people posted in support of Rollins' effort -- as of Monday, it appeared to be two -- Rollins said he did get private e-mails from people thanking him for the notice.

One such supporter poked fun at the use of the phrase "juvenile and irresponsible" to describe Rollins' message.

"That pesky Bill of Rights is just so juvenile and irresponsible," wrote someone identifying herself as Debbera Carson. "Who were those jokers that thought that stuff up?"

An anonymous Rollins supporter called the checkpoints "an abomination."

"I don't leave the Constitution behind when I leave the house," that supporter wrote, "and neither should the police."

© 2008 by The Durham Herald Company. All rights reserved.

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