Fort Worth police chief apologizes after roadside ‘survey’ creates concern (TX)

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead apologized last week for his department’s involvement in a National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, a survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that although technically voluntary, its execution adjacent to Fort Worth roadways prompted many motorists to believe they were being compelled to submit breath samples, saliva swabs or blood draws.

Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy described the scene:

A federal agency wants samples of our saliva, blood and breath.

And Fort Worth police helped collect them.

A police spokesman confirmed Tuesday that off-duty officers set up checkpoints on busy streets Friday, ordering motorists off the road at random to collect samples for a nationwide federal survey of alcohol- and drug-impaired driving.

Motorists were asked to pull into a parking lot, give a cheek swab and volunteer for a blood or breath test. Those who agreed were paid $10 to $50.

Those who didn’t could leave after a short interview.

But nobody was given the choice to just not stop.

NBC Dallas provided this report:

The Fort Worth Police Department issued this statement in response to public concerns over what appears an infringement of civil liberties and abuse of government authority:

TO OUR CITIZENS:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hired off-duty Fort Worth Police officers to assist with the Roadside Survey by providing traffic safety and security of cash used to pay survey participants. This survey was intended to be voluntary and was conducted by NHTSA personnel.

We are reviewing the approval process for this survey’s utilization of FWPD off-duty officers not only to ensure that our policies and procedures were followed, but also to ensure that any off-duty job is in the absolute best interest of our citizens.

We realize this survey caused many of our citizens frustration and we apologize for our participation.

“I agree with our citizens concerns and I apologize for our participation. Any future Federal survey of this nature, which jeopardizes the public’s trust, will not be approved for the use of Fort Worth police.”

Chief Jeffrey Halstead

*** Please express your concern with this survey to the media relations office with the USDOT NHTSA – Kathryn Henry 202-366-6918; kathryn.henry@dot.gov

After Fort Worth and Haltom City police departments reportedly told NBC Dallas they didn’t know who was doing the survey, the station learned it is being conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 30 U.S. cities over a period of three years at a cost of $8 million and as part of “an effort to reduce impaired-driving accidents.”

The casualness with which this affront to freedom was seemingly implemented is troubling. That Fort Worth police would not have the foresight to see the potential backlash at the least calls into question the city’s judgement and respect of its citizens’ rights.

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist and the editor of Watchdog Wire – Texas. As a Policy Analyst with Americans for Prosperity – Texas, she writes and speaks on a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the Creator and Online Producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses probate abuse via wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney as well as other taxpayer advocacy issues.

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