“What the heck is this about?”
Great question! It seems the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department is either trying to be a do-gooder in an effort to save lives; over doses to be exact, or this task force, entitled Domestic Highway Enforcement, is masking its real mission; sniffing out drugs along a 40-mile stretch of the I-5 corridor between Santa Clarita and Kern County, commonly known as the Grapevine. Confused? Here’s the skinny.
Statistics show this stretch of the I-5, and the cities along the route, have a high rate of overdoses for its communities. Here’s the expanded thinking: “Gee, there must be a lot of drugs moving through there, so why not try to intercept the drugs and save lives?” Brilliant! Not quite. Latinos are being targeted, and the original program failed because of profiling; the stops were “constitutionally impermissible,” according to LA Times writers, Posten and Lau.
Nevertheless, Sheriff Alex Villaneuva will revive the drug task force to patrol the I-5 corridor. Maybe he should watch “The Mule” starring Clint Eastwood.
OK, let’s get serious. The task force is looking for bad drivers, and vehicle violations; expired license plates, cracked windshields, etc. not Latino drivers, or so they say. However, one Latina was stopped, according to LA Times writers, Rubin and Posten, and her stuffed toy was ‘squeezed’ for drugs. Really! Just routine ma’am, just routine.
Here’s what happens, if probable cause occurs; such as, the smell of drugs, or if paraphernalia and guns are present. They bring out the ‘buster’, which is a density meter that scans the door panels, Sheriffs peer/pry down the window wells, and dogs sniff the car. Hello, you’re off to jail!
Guess what’s next? A court battle ensues on the legality of the search. The question presented, “is the juice worth the squeeze?” The cost is skyrocketing for legal fees and enforcement: although, drugs have been seized. Many of those arrested are released, despite drug seizures, because the search violated a vague section of the constitution, known as a loophole. Selective enforcement, maybe? Yet, a negative tone is associated with all these words, and the Sheriff’s Office has a remedy. They are going to change the name. No more Domestic Highway Enforcement. They hope a new name will negate any previous connotation -never mind the negative actions of the task force. Can’t wait for the new name, and remember, if stopped be sure not to exhibit a “defeated attitude” among other tell-tale signs. That’s what they’re looking for- especially if you’re Latino!