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Metro bag searches aren't always optional

If you refuse a bag search at a WMATA subway station, Metro Transit Police may follow you if you leave and even if you board a bus. That's what happened to me Tuesday morning in Shaw.


Photo by nevermindtheend on Flickr.

I entered the Shaw Metro station with a bag containing my lunch and my laptop. An officer waved me aside on the north mezzanine and told me to put my bag on the table for inspection. Stunned that I was being stopped without cause, I asked the officer if he had a warrant. He said that if I refused, I was "welcome to use another mode of transportation."

I refused the search, which is mostly about theatrics than actual security. I didn't want to enable what critics have labeled "security theater", the symbolic show of force to give the appearance of protection. In fact, WMATA admits that since they don't search every bag, it's really more about perception, providing "an additional visible layer of protection." Putting on a show is not a good reason to rummage through people's personal items and I didn't want to enable that behavior and belief.

By agreeing to an "optional" WMATA search, I was afraid I would also be inadvertently consenting to a search of my laptop, which would be an abusive and unreasonable intrusion for a transit agency. I wasn't sure if the officers were properly trained to know the nuances of what was and wasn't an appropriate search. How would you even argue with an officer who believes random bag checks at one station actually deter terrorism, anyway? It's like arguing the plot in a fiction novel: the very premise is that facts only partly matter.

Remembering reports that Metro Transit Police only set up searches at one entrance, I pointed to the south mezzanine and said, "I can use that entrance," and the officer said nothing. I left the north entrance to walk to the south entrance a block away.

As I descended the escalators to the south mezzanine, I spotted more officers in the distance. Realizing that the answer would probably be the same at this entrance. I calmly turned around and left, deciding to catch the bus instead.

Little did I know that Metro Transit Police would follow me there. I boarded the 70 bus, which runs above the Green and Yellow lines on 7th Street NW and SW. Two officers got on behind me. Their vests were marked with the word "Terrorism" (perhaps, "Anti-Terrorism" or "Counter-Terrorism", I don't remember which), so clearly they were not there to investigate a fist fight, theft, or fare evasion.

One officer took a seat and another stood, mostly watching his phone. Neither of them said anything to me.

Perhaps it was a coincidence, I thought. Why would police follow me for refusing a supposedly "optional" search, even after I was told I was "welcome to use another mode of transportation"? I was on another mode, after all.

When the bus reached H Street, where I intended to transfer to the Red Line, I paused a moment in my seat, to see what the officers were doing. They remained on the bus. I then got up and stood in line to leave the front of the bus. As I neared the front door, I looked back and noticed that one of the officers had left the back door of the bus and was standing outside.

To test if he was following me, I then sat down in a seat at the front of the bus, and the officer re-boarded the bus through the back door. The driver closed the doors and I asked her if she could reopen it so I could leave. She pushed the door mechanism, which reopened the front and the back door and I left the bus.

As I left the bus at the front door, the officer standing at the back door, partly hanging out the bus, waved and smiled at me through the glass of the rear open door. This act was about sending me a message: if you refuse a search, you will be followed, which is itself a form of intimidation.

WMATA's stated policy allows customers to refuse the allegedly optional search. "Customers who encounter a baggage checkpoint at a station entrance may choose not to enter the station if they would prefer not to submit their carry-ons for inspection," it says.

While you may be "welcome to use another mode of transportation," bag searches aren't really optional if Metro Transit Police follow you and deliberately make it known that they're following you.

Eric Fidler has lived in DC and suburban Maryland his entire life. He likes long walks along the Potomac and considers the L'Enfant Plan an elegant work of art. He also blogs at Left for LeDroit, LeDroit Park's (only) blog of record. 

Comments

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I for one am happy that our tax money is being used to harass people using public transit, instead of addressing real danger, like attacks on bike trails or speeding motorists.

After all, it makes the most sense to divert resources to the safest mode of transport.

Address real safety concerns? Please, this is america.

by JJJ on Jun 13, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

This is actually something they mentioned they'd likely do at the first RAC meeting at which this policy was discussed.

by Charles on Jun 13, 2013 12:48 pm • linkreport

Never consent to a search. Attempt to enter the station anyway and suit the [deleted] out of WMATA for lack of probable cause. Eventually a court will get this right.

by Redline SOS on Jun 13, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

Officers need to stop wasting their time outside the stations and start being available in the major transfer stations like L'enfant, Gallery Place, and Metro center especially on the lower levels.

Cell phone snatchings and fights are the real problem, and these locations are particularly unguarded.

by Mike on Jun 13, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

Police state, anyone?

by Mark Bousquet on Jun 13, 2013 12:55 pm • linkreport

If enough people said "no" the monkey-wrench effect would bring this risible security program to an end.

by Paul on Jun 13, 2013 12:59 pm • linkreport

The creepiest part about this story was that the author didnt find it sketchy to leave one entrance, go to another, then leave, then get on a bus.

Of course cops would follow.

by Kyan on Jun 13, 2013 1:01 pm • linkreport

I agree with Mr. Fidler that these bag searches are security theater. However he needs to put himself not only in his own shoes, but that of WMATA and the inspecting officers. While Mr. Fidler knows what is in his bag and knows his own intent, no one else in this scenario does.

So Mr. Fidler, what would you think if you were a security officer and someone refused to "enable" this security theater? What would that person's intention be for turning around and walking to the other entrance? You cannot answer that question can you? Neither can those officers.

So while you exercise your right of refusal, which you are completely entitled to, they are following you to figure out your intent which, again, only you know.

I'm not saying that what you did was wrong, but you did state part of your intention, now that you knew a bag search was imminent, to go around it and tell the officer that is what you were going to do. What choice do you feel he had? What should he now make of your intention to deliberately avoid the bag search?

It's easy to say that you felt intimidated, but put yourself in the other person's shoes for a minute when you consider the scenario. I think you'll have a better understanding of why this played out as it did.

by CB on Jun 13, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

Wish they would follow those morons who take their bikes on the escalators, carrying them over the heads of other people on the escalator who are totally unaware that there is a bicycle being transported down the escalator steps right above their heads.

by YTK on Jun 13, 2013 1:12 pm • linkreport

@CB-I don't think he doesn't have an understanding of why they followed him. I don't think anyone does. The question is really, does the 4th Amendment matter anymore?

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

by thump on Jun 13, 2013 1:13 pm • linkreport

@CB - what would you think if you were a security officer and someone refused to "enable" this security theater? What would that person's intention be for turning around and walking to the other entrance?

That someone knows his/her 4th amendment rights and knows the the searches are optional and doesn't like living in a police state and is willing to show that dislike by opting out of the optional search. WTF. Its OPTIONAL. Do you think the security officers are really stupid? B/c thats the only reason one could conclude the officers wouldn't have an inkling as to why someone would opt-out of optional searches.

by Tina on Jun 13, 2013 1:14 pm • linkreport

Eric I think you acted appropriately. I hope you forwarded your complaints to WMATA.

by Fitz on Jun 13, 2013 1:16 pm • linkreport

Doesn't surprise me with WMATA. Rarely do we see cops on the Redline. We don't even see them on the platforms. I can't remember the last time we've seen them!!

Good move though evading them .... guess I'll have to remember that :)

by DCinDC on Jun 13, 2013 1:17 pm • linkreport

This is unacceptable. The following is clearly a form of harassment. We have completely lost our freedoms and this once great country is now a nanny state / police state. God bless America? More like like God help America.

by RSM on Jun 13, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

While 2 officers followed one conscientious objector, no one was available to stop 15 kids from beating senseless a cyclist on the MBT.

by SJE on Jun 13, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

Glad we've come to the catch-22 point where refusing the 'optional' search is now probable cause to be followed around!

This transit security stuff is funded by the feds, and Metro can't use the money for anything other than "security" crap like this. Sad.

by MLD on Jun 13, 2013 1:20 pm • linkreport

Great story. I especially like the part on the bus with in-and-out the doors and faked de-boarding. Appalling that you had an opportunity to have this experience to write this great story.

by Tina on Jun 13, 2013 1:23 pm • linkreport

I would have led the two officers on a very entertaining and informative tour of our city one bus at a time until they gave up.

by Jack on Jun 13, 2013 1:30 pm • linkreport

Eric, you did the right thing, and also by writing this important article.

We must resist! this heinous erosion of our constitutionally-guaranteed civil liberties. We aren't second class citizens because we can't "bring the bag back to the trunk of their car out in the parking lot," as was suggested at a RAC meeting a while back.

by Critical Chris on Jun 13, 2013 1:33 pm • linkreport

Umm, if i was doing any type of profiling, someone who refuses a bag search, THEN attempts to evade security by using another entrance, and attempts boards another form of transportation and CONTINUES to evade security would trigger all sorts of questions.

Congratulations, by your own admission you definitely crossed the line into 'reasonable suspicion'.

I agree w/ the whole useless security theatre aspect of metro searches, but you do have to realize that you definitely gave the police reason to be suspicious by your actions AFTER refusing the first search.

I'm sure nobody here would have any problem w/ an officer questioning a 'sketchy' teen for the exact same behavior.

by mm on Jun 13, 2013 1:37 pm • linkreport

Eric,

Please tell me what happens when you try to pull the same move in the airport. Get over yourself.

by Jon Snow on Jun 13, 2013 1:37 pm • linkreport

I'm pretty sure I've been solicited by the bag check table before while heading to work, but just kept walking and ignored the request coming from my periphery. My tunnel vision, honed from many years of not making eye contact with the crazy guy outside the metro who barks at my dog, paid off!

It's pretty silly. I've never seen a Metro bag check station stop someone reading a book, on the phone, or wearing headphones. Too much effort. It's purely theater.

by worthing on Jun 13, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

Every time this happens, someone should share the location, so lots of people can show up with bags full of sex toys or something equally embarrassing to paw through, to resist this silliness. Or even better, bags full of reports of actual crime on Metro -- what our police should be focused on instead.

by Gavin on Jun 13, 2013 1:41 pm • linkreport

You know nothing (about Metro's contradictory statements and actions on this policy), @Jon Snow.

by worthing on Jun 13, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

I agree these kinds of invasive and unreasonable security checks are one more reason not to use Metro. Which stations do this regularly? I have read many articles about it, but never actually seen it in practice on the Red Line.

Although, in this particular case, the writer did behave in a somewhat deliberately suspicious manner, so it is not so surprising that the police took interest. If not for the comment about using the unguarded southern entrance, they probably would not have paid any further attention.

by Chris S. on Jun 13, 2013 1:45 pm • linkreport

hahaha there we go. I actually don't know much except for it makes me feel safer,regardless if they find anything or not. Go to work earlier than your expected to be there like a focused professional would and you will be fine. Pretty sure the FAA random checks have worked out pretty well for us since 9/11. Liberals are just too much

by Jon Snow on Jun 13, 2013 1:46 pm • linkreport

The bag checks are optional in the sense that you have the option of using another method of transportation. Metro is clear that if you don't allow your bag to be checked you can't ride. Also no one is "rummaging" through your bag they swab the outside of your bag for chemicals nobody opens your bag.

Further you contradict yourself by saying it's theatre and then complaining that Metro Police then monitor you as you continue using the system they're supposed to be protecting. Nobody threatened you or intimated you.

While I completely agree the bag checks are wrong perhaps you should inform yourself before hopping on your high horse blog about it.

by Tim on Jun 13, 2013 1:52 pm • linkreport

I'm not a fan of this security theater at all, and I think you were right to refuse the search if you didn't want to submit to it. I also don't think it was unexpected that some officers followed you after you tried to use another entrance. I agree that the chance of any real terrorist actually do that is basically zero, but the officers do have to investigate any potential threat, no matter how silly or misguided. At the very least, the officers' presence on the bus did more for public safety in general than having them perform useless searches at the metro entrance.

If you are intimidated by an officer's behavior though, the best weapon you have in your defense is your cell phone. Start recording the officer and make sure they can clearly see you doing it, and ask if they are following you, and why.

by IsoTopor on Jun 13, 2013 1:57 pm • linkreport

Great write-up and I agree that this theater is a waste of money and resources. Has anyone seen the movie "The French Connection"? There's a scene that plays out almost like the bus ride with the getting on and off. Even ends with the bad guy waving at the cop as the train leaves the station.

by I. Rex on Jun 13, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

@Jon Snow - TSA security is mandatory at airports, not optional.

by Tina on Jun 13, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

I think the teenager problem is more serious than terrorism. Now that I think about it, the teenagers are terrorists. lol But seriously, are there no ideas on how to squash this teen violence on the Metro?

by adelphi_sky on Jun 13, 2013 2:01 pm • linkreport

@Tim - Nobody threatened you or intimated you.
He was followed by two armed men.

by Tina on Jun 13, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Hungry on Jun 13, 2013 2:05 pm • linkreport

Everyone complains about optional security, until a situation in the future arises when there is some sort of terrorist attack or other crime that threatens life and property, and then everyone will be so quick to blame Metro for lack of security. I'm surprised the officers following you didn't actually corner and question you further after playing games with them. You were the cause for a waste of resources because the officers are probably trained to follow suspicious acting individuals. I clearly get by reading other comments that i'm out-numbered here about 10 to 1 but i'm also not a regular Metro rider and appreciate the presence, even if it is a charade.

by Gull on Jun 13, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

Wow. The comments here... Just wow.
And this is a country where gun registration can't pass...

by Jasper on Jun 13, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

@ IsoTopor "If you are intimidated by an officer's behavior though, the best weapon you have in your defense is your cell phone. Start recording the officer and make sure they can clearly see you doing it, and ask if they are following you, and why."

Except in some cases you may wind up arrested and have your phone confiscated, so exercise caution.

by Chris S. on Jun 13, 2013 2:14 pm • linkreport

Don't bother filing a complaint with WMATA - just tweet the heck out of this story. That's pretty much the only thing they pay attention to these days.

Even so, I find rather curious your opinion that your individual behavior plays a big role in the Metro's security apparatus. The security theater is already enabled long before you arrived and will continue to be so enabled long after you leave.

by Scoot on Jun 13, 2013 2:17 pm • linkreport

I'd like to know from all the people who submit to this kind of harassment, why they wouldn't show the contents of their bags to just any random stranger. if after all I think you look suspicious, I'd like to know what's in your bag and once we all see what's in there, we can determine whether we should call the police and have you interrogated.

by LeFabe on Jun 13, 2013 2:17 pm • linkreport

@Jon Snow:

Literally the only effective aviation-related actions taken after 9/11 were locking cockpit doors, matching baggage to passengers, and instilling a sense of resistance in passengers. Everything else has been meaningless security theater.

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2011/12/tsa-insanity-201112

by MetroDerp on Jun 13, 2013 2:20 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Jon Snow on Jun 13, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] If you're black, you're followed by the police constantly

by Zesty on Jun 13, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

While you may be "welcome to use another mode of transportation," bag searches aren't really optional if Metro Transit Police follow you and deliberately make it known that they're following you.

Bag searches apparently are optional as you were subject to neither search nor seizure. To recap: (1) you wanted to ride Metro but in order to do so had to agree to a search of your belongings; (2) not wanting to be searched but still wanting to ride Metro, you tried to surreptitiously avoid the search; (3) being unsuccessful at surreptitiously entering Metro and still not wanting to be searched, you chose not to ride Metro and boarded a metrobus instead; (3) Metro police viewed your behavior (either your attempt to surreptitiously avoid the search or the declination in the first place) suspicious and decided to keep an eye on you as you rode the WMATA system over which they have jurisdiction; (5) at no time during the entire events did Metro police seize or search you.

I don't see where in there you were harassed. And I agree that the searches are theatre but if I were a law enforcement officer, I would view your attempt to surreptitiously avoid the search as suspect. I bet if you had told the officer that you think of the searches as security theatre, he'd probably have not viewed you as suspect.

by 7r3y3r on Jun 13, 2013 2:27 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Jon Snow on Jun 13, 2013 2:28 pm • linkreport

That's right, VF never has any intelligent well-researched stories... Please tell us which publications meet your high standards of journalism.

by LeFabe on Jun 13, 2013 2:28 pm • linkreport

What I'm saying is that I don't see a problem when the Police following someone that does not want their bag searched. If you have nothing to hide. As an illustration, I cited the fact that as a black male; I'm followed by Police all the time. I don't get ruffled by it because I have nothing to hide.

by Zesty on Jun 13, 2013 2:30 pm • linkreport

@ LeFabe "That's right, VF never has any intelligent well-researched stories..."

We'll never know, because that would require reading, um, Vanity Fair. :)

by Chris S. on Jun 13, 2013 2:33 pm • linkreport

@LeFabe

I was just going to say the same thing. You mean the publication better known as Tiger Beat on the Potomac? (e.g., http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/worst-politico-piece-on-corporate-tax-rates-121112)

by MetroDerp on Jun 13, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

you should be pissed that police are following you because you're black/decline a bag search/any other number of reasons when you've done nothing wrong.

I was followed by Capitol Police following a permitted protest. It was an unerving experience, to say the least. I had done nothing illegal, hadn't even taken photos or video of police who were watching us. And yet as I walked from the Senate side to the House side, I was followed. Creeped me out.

by Birdie on Jun 13, 2013 2:39 pm • linkreport

I'd like to remind everyone that among other elements of our policy, it says that if any comments are deleted people need to take up concerns with the moderators over email, NOT get into a discussion of the issue on the comment thread. The emails that go out to anyone whose comment is modified or deleted also say this.

If people are using a fake email address, that is also not allowed, and plus they won't then get the email. Please use a real email address so that we can inform you if anything violates the policy and has to be modified.

by David Alpert on Jun 13, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

How soon we forget. Those officers are doing their job to prevent this from happening in DC:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7_July_2005_London_bombings

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Madrid_train_bombings

by Eric on Jun 13, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

if i was doing any type of profiling, someone who refuses a bag search

refusal to submit to an optional bag search can not be used as probable cause to create a mandatory bag search. Or else we have no actual right to privacy.

by David C on Jun 13, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

@Chrsi S., just because you choose not to read Vanity Fair because of some preconcieved notion if inferiority, does not make it an inferior product. Just as an example, I greatly enjoyed Michael Lewis's series on economic meltdown in various European countries, and just yesterday I read a piece summarized as "The bizarre battle of the Call of Duty video game franchise." I don't give two hoots about video games, but it was a compelling, smartly written article.

by Birdie on Jun 13, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

@Birdie, that's one incident that happened to you. This happens to me all the time; literally. So I'm not going to get my blood pressure worked up over something that's NOT changing anytime soon; i.e., racism. As an example, my wife and I recently bought a house. I was installing something in the house; a police officer sees me inside the house. He knocks on the door, I had to explain that I owned the house (you would think I just told him I was from Mars).

by Zesty on Jun 13, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

Great point Eric. But unfortunately we in the US feel invincible until something actually happens. This is why people were outraged about airport security after 9/11 and why people are going nuts about NSA right now. Don't get angry yet, I'm not saying I agree or disagree with the outrage but we cast judgement as a country before getting the facts, and I think the media has trained us to operate that way - helps them get readers, page views, adv impressions, and money.

The thought process of our nation is ready, fire, aim.

by Jon Snow on Jun 13, 2013 2:45 pm • linkreport

This is a waste of limited resources, full stop.

by MJB on Jun 13, 2013 2:46 pm • linkreport

Those officers are doing their job to prevent this from happening in DC

Except that these random, optional bag searches won't actually prevent a metro bombing. A guy took a motor scooter onto Metro last week - a freaking motor scooter. And you think they're keeping out bombs?

There is no way this program prevents bombings. No way.

by David C on Jun 13, 2013 2:48 pm • linkreport

Depending on what I had going on that day, I'd be inclined to follow them! Why not take some "sightseeing" videos where they just so happen to be in the frame as well. Turn the tables on them.

by Hah on Jun 13, 2013 2:51 pm • linkreport

Instead of mocking the source, I guess people could try looking up the person interviewed in that security article. He is constantly quoted by the mainstream media as a security expert:
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/06/11/in-nsa-leak-case-a-whistle-blower-or-a-criminal/before-prosecuting-snowden-investigate-the-government

But I guess it's just easier to mock Vanity Fair as a joke.

Politico actually is a joke publication though. Just like the idea that random bag checks once a week at one station would have any effect on terrorism.

by MLD on Jun 13, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

@Zesty: So I'm not going to get my blood pressure worked up over something that's NOT changing anytime soon; i.e., racism.

I think you're doing yourself a disservice by accepting something as absurd as a police officer coming to your door because he's suspicious that you own the place, but you're entitled to proceed that way. However, I don't think two dudes at folding tables in the occasional metro station is as firmly established as all the sociocultural history, biases, and ideologies that perpetuate racism.

by worthing on Jun 13, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

Eric, none of us want an act of terrorism to occur on Metro. But this isn't the only way these officers could be deployed. Instead, they could actually be patrolling stations and trains. That way, they could be alert to (extremely rare) terrorism attempts -- while at the same time, being available to deter and respond to the much more common types of violence and crime that occur on Metro every day.

The question is not whether the police should try to prevent would-be terrorists -- it's what is most effective. Would we rather have them sitting in one place searching bags? (Just bags, mind you -- not bombs/weapons hidden in shoes, under coats, or anywhere else.) Or would we rather have them observing throughout the system?

by Gavin on Jun 13, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

The Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches is pretty important, so I'm glad you made a statement by refusing to submit to an unwarranted search. If one does not have the right to exercise one's rights, then how is that different from not having that right in the first place. The Metro police were clearly more interested in protecting their self-image. It requires circular logic for them to dedicate such effort into following you on a bus. These bag checks should not be implemented. My trust in WMATA's competence and judgement has eroded because of this.

I look forward to this scene being dramatized in the next Bond movie. Or Muppet movie.

by Michael on Jun 13, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

@worthing, Irrespective of my acceptance, it's a reality. My acceptance/not accepting will not change a police officer from looking at my suspiciously because of skin color. My only correlation here is, if you have nothing to hide why is this an issue? The police did not stop and question, they did not follow him home, I haven't been persuaded as to what constitutional/moral violation occurred here.

by Zesty on Jun 13, 2013 2:57 pm • linkreport

@MLD

Yeah, I meant to mention that the focus of the article is on Bruce Schneier and his security work. His blog is also worth mentioning (and checking out!): http://www.schneier.com/

by MetroDerp on Jun 13, 2013 2:58 pm • linkreport

@Kyan
"The creepiest part about this story was that the author didnt find it sketchy to leave one entrance, go to another, then leave, then get on a bus.
Of course cops would follow."

Yeah once you do that you have given them probable cause to follow you.

by Richard Bourne on Jun 13, 2013 3:05 pm • linkreport

@Richard Bourne -I can't discern if your comment is meant as facetious, or not

by Tina on Jun 13, 2013 3:07 pm • linkreport

There are two issues here, and I see people conflating them. One is whether the Metro policy is effective. The other is whether the actions the officers took was reasonable, given the policy in place and the circumstances.

I'll leave the effectiveness to be debated--I can understand both sides of the argument.

The real issue at hand is whether the MTPD officer's actions were reasonable. I'd tend to agree with 7r3y3r. It sounds like the police were correctly following the policy of not allowing someone onto Metro property when the person refuses the search, especially after he tried to re-enter the station at the other entrance, was followed and then got on the bus (also Metro property). If I were an officer and someone refused a search and then tried to avoid the search, it seems entirely reasonable that the officer would have cause to follow you.

Your beef should be with the policy's effectiveness and its existence, rather than the police officer's conduct, because it sounds like they acted within established Metro policies.

by Jonathan P on Jun 13, 2013 3:09 pm • linkreport

Yeah once you do that you have given them probable cause to follow you.

No.

refusal to submit to an optional bag search can not be used as probable cause to create a mandatory bag search. Or else we have no actual right to privacy.

You can't give someone the right to refuse and then use their refusal alone as probable cause for some other invasion.

Or at least this is the way it is supposed to work, because if it didn't then there is no right to privacy nor right not to give testimony against yourself.

by MLD on Jun 13, 2013 3:12 pm • linkreport

Just playing devil's advocate here - for those of you complaining that they're patrolling a safe area. (From the first comment: "After all, it makes the most sense to divert resources to the safest mode of transport.")

Maybe it's the safest mode of transport because there are so many officers patrolling?

by Brad on Jun 13, 2013 3:12 pm • linkreport

@Brad - there aren't "so many officers patrolling". Thats part of the complaint. If officers were actually patrolling they would have an opportunity to be in the right place at the right time to prevent a crime or a suicide or apprehend a criminal. These guys sit at a table every now and then and perform optional searches, with the sole purpose of being intimidating - to all you who are saying "they didn't intimidate you" - the sole purpose of the optional searches is to intimidate - to intimidate innocent people into submitting to a search.

If the comment upthread is correct that what they do is swab for explosives -what person who knows s/he has been handling explosives would submit to the optional search? Its absurd.

by Tina on Jun 13, 2013 3:27 pm • linkreport

Change one letter on the officer's vest and you get "terrorist".

I wonder if the officer on the phone knew he was being monitored by the NSA?

by turtleshell on Jun 13, 2013 3:45 pm • linkreport

why they wouldn't show the contents of their bags to just any random stranger. if after all I think you look suspicious, I'd like to know what's in your bag and once we all see what's in there, we can determine whether we should call the police and have you interrogated.

Not that I have any problem showing the contents of my bag to random strangers (I doubt people would get very excited over gym clothes, an iPad and a half empty water bottle), but to the police's credit, they do have at least a modicum of training on what looks suspicious and what isn't.

by Scoot on Jun 13, 2013 3:47 pm • linkreport

The key to combatting insurgencies is to have the support of the majority. See e.g. "war of the flea" or anything by David Simon on policing. Security theater is entirely theatrical, and does nothing to help, and can corrode support for the authorities. Far better to have cops on the train, being seen, stopping actual crime.

And for those citing stats: yes, its a risk. Its risk is appoximately 1 in 20 million, about 4-5 time less likely than getting hit by lightning. You are far more likely to be beaten to death, run over by a car, and thats where resources should go.

In fact, you are far more likely to die of the flu, but we don't stop and search every rider for a fever or cold, and kick them off.

by SJE on Jun 13, 2013 3:50 pm • linkreport

People can always vote with their feet and refuse to ride Metro until the inspections stop.

by Chris S. on Jun 13, 2013 3:53 pm • linkreport

I'm going to always ride metro with a bag full of soiled diapers. Same as when I was single.

by David C on Jun 13, 2013 3:56 pm • linkreport

I agree that not submitting does not present probable cause to follow you. But the point is moot because they don't need probable cause to follow you, or even reasonable suspicion for that matter.

by Scoot on Jun 13, 2013 3:58 pm • linkreport

This blog entry does nothing more than rehash old news. When WMATA announced the random bag searches several years ago, someone asked at one public meeting sponsored by the RAC what would happen if you refused. The then MTPD Chief said you could use another mode of transportation but that MTPD may conduct surveillance if you refuse the bag search. No reason to restate the obvious.

by Arlingon Traveler on Jun 13, 2013 4:01 pm • linkreport

@MLD
"Yeah once you do that you have given them probable cause to follow you."
"No.

refusal to submit to an optional bag search can not be used as probable cause to create a mandatory bag search. Or else we have no actual right to privacy.

You can't give someone the right to refuse and then use their refusal alone as probable cause for some other invasion."
I said follow, not mandatory bad search. The officer correctly assumed that the person who declined his search was going to try to get around him and use a different entrance, so he followed. He did not force a bag search, he followed.

Metro has the right to decline service to people who do not submit to a bag search. Just like the Smithsonian has the right to decline service to people who do not submit to their bag search. If you decline, you can walk away. As you are in public they can watch you. If they suspect that you are trying to still enter their system they can follow you.

by Richard Bourne on Jun 13, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

@ Chris S.
"People can always vote with their feet and refuse to ride Metro until the inspections stop."
They could. They could stop going to the Smithsonian too. They could do whatever they want really. I doubt the legions of gov employees who have to have their bags searched when they enter their work places wouldn't mind having their bags searched again.

by Richard Bourne on Jun 13, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

You should file a formal complaint with WMATA. There's a process - you should see if it actually works. If not, there's another story for you.

by Ben on Jun 13, 2013 4:20 pm • linkreport

@ Richard Bourne "They could. They could stop going to the Smithsonian too. They could do whatever they want really. I doubt the legions of gov employees who have to have their bags searched when they enter their work places wouldn't mind having their bags searched again."

But the Smithsonian and people's employers have exclusivity on their side. In the case of the Metro, it isn't the only commuting option in town.

by Chris S. on Jun 13, 2013 4:22 pm • linkreport

@Chris S - People can always vote with their feet and refuse to ride Metro until the inspections stop.

Thats what EF did and he got followed doing it.

If these searches are truly optional then they should be announced beforehand so anyone who doesn't want to submit can make alternate travel plans. The deterrent effect would be the same but the civility factor would be a lot higher.

by Tina on Jun 13, 2013 4:27 pm • linkreport

@Chris S
The gov isnt the only employer in town
The smithsonian isnt the only museum in town

by Richard Bourne on Jun 13, 2013 4:39 pm • linkreport

@ Richard Bourne "The gov isnt the only employer in town
The smithsonian isnt the only museum in town"

Well, close enough. :)

by Chris S. on Jun 13, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

If these searches are truly optional then they should be announced beforehand so anyone who doesn't want to submit can make alternate travel plans.

The searches were announced beforehand. They were announced back in 2010. Since Metro has been very clear that people who opt to decline are free to find an alternate route, I think 2+ years is enough time for people to plan that route upon deciding to avail themselves of that option.

by Scoot on Jun 13, 2013 4:52 pm • linkreport

The gov isnt the only employer in town
The smithsonian isnt the only museum in town

Yup, we should never question the costs/benefits or overreach of security protocols, because we can always just go somewhere else!

by MLD on Jun 13, 2013 4:55 pm • linkreport

I never see these on the orange line. I kind of forgot they still did them until just now.

It's still dumb and shouldn't be done.

by drumz on Jun 13, 2013 5:12 pm • linkreport

The difference between being searched to enter a federal building and this program is the consistency. All people entering the federal building are subject to scrutiny (you either need an ID or be escorted after being searched). Whereas, this is random and its unclear what your options are.

Besides, we've had plenty of posts on here about federal building security requirements as well.

by drumz on Jun 13, 2013 5:16 pm • linkreport

Sounds bad but just imagine how those of us who've been "stopped and frisked" in NYC feel. In those cases, walking on a public sidewalk and looking a certain way gives the authorities license to search and you do not have the right to refuse

by HogWash on Jun 13, 2013 5:21 pm • linkreport

@Scoot -they aren't announced before where they will be. For civil society we need reliable transportation networks we can depend on daily, and we need to respect civil rights -without one negating the other.

If this program were perceived to truly improve safety it wouldn't be met with such protest. Most states (VA, MD & DC) have mandatory safety inspection of automobiles and emissions inspections. Those mandatory procedures are not random and are mostly accepted as improving safety for everyone. Those qualities are not true for these random disruptive optional searches.

The only purpose of these random optional searches is to intimidate innocent people into giving up their 4th amendment rights.

Roadside breathalyzers are challenged all the time and there is some precedent IIRC, that you do not have to submit to a random field test after being asked to pull over at a check stop, i.e., with no probable cause.

BTW, alcohol impaired drivers kill about 11,000 people annually. Depending on the strain, since 1976 influenza kills 3,000-49,000 people in the US annually. How many people are killed by bombs? As someone upthread suggested, inspecting people for flu symptoms would provide more harm reduction than these stupid disrespectful searches. Installation of sanitary hand fluid would prevent more harm. This program has NOTHING to do with increasing safety/reducing harm.

If you think it does please explain to me how it reduces risk of harm while riding metro train.

by Tina on Jun 13, 2013 5:22 pm • linkreport

You are exactly right that refusal to consent to a warrantless search does not give a basis for reasonable suspicion for a subsequent search, but perhaps not to follow you. The question is whether this following is itself a violation of the 4th amendment: I'd say not. My recommendation is to videotape the police following you.

by SJE on Jun 13, 2013 5:26 pm • linkreport

Dude, all you showed me is you'd cut your ear off to spite yourself. Failure to allow the cop to inspect your bag for 5-30 seconds, means you, A, delayed getting yourself to a final destination, B, made the cop concerned about his fellow AMERICANS cause you 'refused to have your laptop and lunch looked at, making you a suspicious person, C, you wasted time writing this crap over nothing, and D, you wasted our time spewing it and drawing attention to it... Had you gone to a concert, boarded a plan, or gone to a ballgame, you have no way to say no....Thanks for wasting my time...Have a nice day!

by goedit on Jun 13, 2013 5:29 pm • linkreport

The question is whether this following is itself a violation of the 4th amendment: I'd say not.

True.

It is, however, illustrative of the silliness of this 'random' bag search policy.

by Alex B. on Jun 13, 2013 5:39 pm • linkreport

@goedit -had you gone to a concert, boarded a plan, or gone to a ballgame, you have no way to say no.

This is part of the problem w/ this program -its inconsistency. One knows before doing all those activities you mention that the search will be expected for entry.

What fraction of metro train riders were searched the day EF opted out? Do you really think there was a deterrent effect? The only thing that happened is a bunch of people were intimidated into giving up their 4th amendment right, others were apathetic about it, and those who were neither apathetic not intimidated were needlessly inconvenienced. I think the sudden prospect of either changing your travel plans or giving up your right is part of the coercion/intimidation. Its uncivil.

by Tina on Jun 13, 2013 5:40 pm • linkreport

@Alex B +1

by Tina on Jun 13, 2013 5:41 pm • linkreport

@Tina,

Personally I agree with you that the bag checks are not that effective (I think Metro's own incompetence is far likelier to threaten rider safety, as we have seen in the last 5 years) but the searches are designed to be random and unannounced, much like DUI checkpoints to have a deterrent effect, and have been upheld as constitutional when challenged.

Personally I think the best deterrent would be to require each passenger to pass through a metal detector followed by an intensive physical and mental secondary screening by a trained officer involvin in-depth questions about where the passenger is coming from, where he is going, why he is in DC, who he works for, where he grew up, etc. They do this in Israel, and it works.

But I really question your stance that Americans would submit to that kind of invasion even if they could accept that it actually improves safety. I doubt most people have even studied the efficacy of the Metro's bag programs in great detail; they just don't like it. Even so, I think most people submit anyway.

And by the way, the efficacy of vehicle safety and emissions inspections has never really been studied to determine whether it saves lives or makes roads safer.

by Scoot on Jun 13, 2013 5:55 pm • linkreport

The biggest issue here is the lack of effectiveness of random bag searches on transit. If it was effective, you'd think London and Madrid would be doing them after their transit bombings. There are much more effective ways for the same resources to be used to prevent terrorism.

If random bag searches are so effective, why not institute them at shopping malls, movie theaters, and other places with lots of people?

That said, random bag searches don't violate our rights anymore than police checkpoints on roads for drunk driving or as a crime checkpoint like they had in the Trinidad neighborhood. Furthermore, if you're going to have a policy of bag searches (because let's say they actually were effective), then surveillance of people who opt-out of the search seems like a reasonable policy.

I actually don't know much except for it makes me feel safer,regardless if they find anything or not...Liberals are just too much

What makes people *feel* safe -- regardless of what actually makes people safe -- isn't totally insignificant but certainly should not be the driver of security policies. Policy should be based on data, not on "feelings" but I suppose things like data, science, and logic don't mean much to conservatives.

Everyone complains about optional security, until a situation in the future arises when there is some sort of terrorist attack or other crime that threatens life and property, and then everyone will be so quick to blame Metro for lack of security.

I'll blame Metro for using their resources on stupid bag searches instead of tactics that could actually prevent terrorism.

As an illustration, I cited the fact that as a black male; I'm followed by Police all the time. I don't get ruffled by it because I have nothing to hide.

You should be ruffled because the police are violating your civil rights per the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

by Falls Church on Jun 13, 2013 6:08 pm • linkreport

@ goedit "Dude, all you showed me is you'd cut your ear off to spite yourself. Failure to allow the cop to inspect your bag for 5-30 seconds, means you, A, delayed getting yourself to a final destination, B, made the cop concerned about his fellow AMERICANS cause you 'refused to have your laptop and lunch looked at, making you a suspicious person..."

Well, ya know, some people got these things called principles.

by Chris S. on Jun 13, 2013 6:18 pm • linkreport

Reassuring to see so many commenters coming down on the side of the 4th Amendment. Aside from being inimical to the spirit of the Constitution, and utterly ineffective, I'd like to know just how much money was being wasted on this security theater.

by renegade09 on Jun 13, 2013 6:22 pm • linkreport

I encourage all of the GGW crowd to do the same thing. Get your photos in a book where they belong.

by Skant on Jun 13, 2013 7:07 pm • linkreport

@Scoot-But I really question your stance that Americans would submit to that kind of invasion even if they could accept that it actually improves safety.

Thats not my stance. I do not think Americans would accept that.

by Tina on Jun 13, 2013 8:52 pm • linkreport

There is no way this program prevents bombings. No way.

Sure, but that's not the point. The point is to give ignorant people the warm fuzzies. Jasper nailed it above when he pointed out that, quite literally, the only freedom that mainstream America is interested in is the unregulated freedom to own firearms. Everything else is suspect.

Anyone else remember the days when conservatives cared at all about civil liberties? Heady days.

by oboe on Jun 13, 2013 9:55 pm • linkreport

I said follow, not mandatory bad search.

I think Scoot got it right. Refusing to allow them to search your bag does not create probable cause for anything. But you don't need probable cause to follow someone.

Doing the stupid bag searches is a waste of resources. Following people who refuse them is likely legal, but is also a waste of time and resources and makes people feel intimidated.

Finally, it is probably 1000 times (or more) likely that someone would refuse a search on principal or because their bag is filled with sheep porn or some other good reason than that they have a bomb in their bag, so the idea that refusing is suspicious is, ironically, itself suspect.

by David C on Jun 13, 2013 9:56 pm • linkreport

Interestingly, a lawyer can asert attorney-client privilege as a basis to refuse a search.

by SJE on Jun 13, 2013 10:04 pm • linkreport

Finally, it is probably 1000 times (or more) likely that someone would refuse a search on principal or because their bag is filled with sheep porn or some other good reason than that they have a bomb in their bag

In all fairness, I can't imagine someone with a bomb in their bag would actually submit to a search unless they were incredibly dumb. I'd say the chance of someone with a bomb agreeing to a search is basically zero, assuming they know they can opt-out. So while all people who opt-out are not terrorists (and very very very few of them are) all terrorists are people who opt-out.

That's essentially why random bag searches are completely ineffective -- you can opt-out and then try your luck on another day. The only search policy that *could* conceivably actually stop a terrorist would be a mandatory search of everyone like at the airport. Of course, you can still opt-out but then you can't enter the station regardless of how many times you try on different days. London's Tube is looking into technology that could process every passenger at high speed with minimal delay and I'd agree something like that could be effective...although whether the increased security is worth the loss of liberty and financial cost is certainly debatable.

by Falls Church on Jun 13, 2013 11:10 pm • linkreport

I could understand raising an objection to the random search, and maybe even your walking away rather than allowing the search. But goading them into following you around by telling the inspector you were going to use the other entrance because you'd heard they only set up check points at one entrance? It really seems like you wanted them to 'do their job' by following you. Sorta like you were going o make fools of them. And in the meantime while these expensive police resources were busy following you around, who knows what real terrorist could have engaged in unsupervised and unopposed.

by A neighbor on Jun 13, 2013 11:16 pm • linkreport

I can't believe some people are defending the cops by suggesting you acted suspiciously. What terrorist plot in this world is being foiled because the terrorists couldn't use public transit? If a person has ill intent upon the Metro system random bag checks aren't going to stop them. They couldn't possibly be thorough enough.

If these cops had been put out on the streets to find and retrieve one (1) illegal firearm they would have made the city many times safer than they did at this or any other bag check. I agree with the author- It is not just about security theater, but about broadcasting force.

by Pennsy on Jun 14, 2013 12:37 am • linkreport

Have they ever done the bag searches when trains are running every 20-30 minutes or during the first or last train of the day. I could totally see someone getting PO'd if they missed a train and they are running every 20 minutes or so.

I personally think they should hand out a farecard with 50 cent to every person that gets search as it could be the case of being late for work, school or whereever.

by kk on Jun 14, 2013 12:57 am • linkreport

An internationally respect security expert, Bruce Schneier, shares thoughts on this type of "security theater". BTW, this article was posted in an earlier comment: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2011/12/tsa-insanity-201112

For those that believe these bag searches are either necessary or useful, I'm sure you'll enjoy this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxQbtrncJPc

by Flimflam on Jun 14, 2013 1:08 am • linkreport

The teenager problem is indeed a far greater concern than terrorism. I took the metro for the first time in a long time yesterday, and teenagers with long pointy umbrellas (metal spear tips) surrounded me and were beating each other with them, hard, and I nearly had my eye poked out. So I moved, and they started throwing their umbrellas as the moving trains as they passed, and I was nearly impaled by a couple umbrellas bouncing off the train and flying directly at me. Yes there was an officer there, at least one, and he apparently didn't give a shit.

by Lee Watkins on Jun 14, 2013 7:31 am • linkreport

Sounds bad but just imagine how those of us who've been "stopped and frisked" in NYC feel. In those cases, walking on a public sidewalk and looking a certain way gives the authorities license to search and you do not have the right to refuse

I still don't understand how stop and frisk is legal, and certainly not in the way it's applied in New York (which is basically just racial profiling). It's one of the most offensive domestic policies in the US.

by worthing on Jun 14, 2013 8:28 am • linkreport

I agree with worthing. I am outraged about stop and frisk and I would hope most New Yorkers would be too.

by David Alpert on Jun 14, 2013 8:41 am • linkreport

wow, what a mistake it was to check the box to receive notifications every time someone replies. Is there a way to stop it?

by LeFabe on Jun 14, 2013 8:49 am • linkreport

@Tina,

You did say that "If this program were perceived to truly improve safety it wouldn't be met with such protest."

So how far can we apply this logic before it becomes untenable? Would people go through mandatory bag checks for everyone if it were perceived to improve safety? Would people walk through medical detectors? Would they submit to secondary screening? Or are you just saying that you would be more likely to submit to a bag search if you perceived it were safe?

The most effective programs are often the ones that violate the most rights, but there is always a balance to be struck between liberty and security. Personally I doubt most people have thought enough about the bag programs to accurately perceive whether such programs are effective. Even so, most people aren't protesting it.

by Scoot on Jun 14, 2013 9:09 am • linkreport

@Scoot - yes, You did say that "If this program were perceived to truly improve safety it wouldn't be met with such protest."

To clarify, this program is ineffectual and a lot of people know it. It also creates a situation where one either surrenders his/her 4th amendment right or be very much inconvenienced in the course of a daily routine (commuting to work) that, for an organized society to function, one needs to be able to count on day-in-day-out.

Two reasons among others that this program is disliked and criticized.

To have any impact on preventing a Madrid/London/Tokyo (remember the sarin gas?) style commuter train attack it would have to be applied consistently and universally. This, imo, would not be acceptable to Americans. Therefore this stupid program is a waste of resources, its hostile to a civil society and its disruptive to daily living.

Again, the only thing this program achieves is coercion and intimidation of innocent people into surrendering their 4th amendment rights (very uncivil), and creating an unexpected majorly disruptive inconvenience to normally expected functioning of a civil society for those who opt-out.

by Tina on Jun 14, 2013 11:15 am • linkreport

LeFabe: each email has instructions on how to turn it off

by Mike on Jun 14, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

I see them sometimes on the Metro/tran station/ airport. Am I the only one who feels LESS safe when they see a bunch of unfriendly looking guys with AKs (or whatever)?

by Alan B. on Jun 14, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

@Tina,

Have you been subject to one of these bag checks? Could you tell us first hand how it "majorly disruptively inconvenienced" you? Personally I do not have situational knowledge of the bag checks because I've not been subject to one though I ride the Metro every day to and from work. I'd be curious to hear from others about how the bag check was majorly disruptively inconveniencing.

The author of this blog piece refused to submit to the search, attempted to circumvent the search by boarding at another entrance, then willingly took another form of transportation to his destination without ever submitting to a search. If he is arguing that the search is coercive, he himself does not seem to have been coerced into it.

by Scoot on Jun 14, 2013 11:54 am • linkreport

Its interesting that you were 'intimidated' by two uniformed and armed law enforcement officers with the words "anti-terrorism" on their vests.
You were in a public area the entire time of your encounter, and while neither of these two officers said a word to you - didn't attempt to stop, detain, question, or search you - you were afraid.

A reasonable person who understands that we are at war and terrorists' chief goal is to disrupt mass transit and cause harm to a maximum number of persons at one time would understand that - as small as the percentage of it happening at this very minute or hour - a subway or bus system is a soft target. If you know your history, you are well aware that Washington DC was under a very similar threat during the 1860s and that besides freeing the slaves, Abraham Lincoln trampled over all sorts of perceived rights in order to safeguard the nation's capital.

But I know you're a security 'expert' by your own assertion that these tactics "have no chance of working right here on this blog.

So. I'd like to know what's in your backpack.
Probably little of interest [deleted for violating the comment policy.], yet all of this could be the perfect ruse to attempt an attack. Please open your bag or walk to where you need to go. Any reasonable American would not be intimidated by law enforcement doing their job to counter such threats. In fact, reasonable Americans do what they can to assist law enforcement in reporting suspicious activity. I'll know not to rely on you to report a person standing near my car at 3 am. (He has every right to smoke his weed there - despite Supreme Court cases to the contrary).

by WW on Jun 14, 2013 12:26 pm • linkreport

@Scoot -these bag checks? Could you tell us first hand how it "majorly disruptively inconvenienced"

You don't consider it a major disruption if you get to the metro station and then suddenly have to find some other way to get to work?

by Tina on Jun 14, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

@Scoot - he took another form of transportation to his destination without ever submitting to a search. If he is arguing that the search is coercive, he himself does not seem to have been coerced into it.

Exactly. By refusing to be coerced into it he had to, on the spot, make other plans. he was lucky to be at a station that also had decent bus service nearby that took him in the direction of his destination.

by Tina on Jun 14, 2013 12:38 pm • linkreport

Why Shaw Metro?

I have never once seen these searches. Maybe I don't ride Metro enough, but you would think the more logical venues might be Gallery Place, Metro Center.

Buses, of course, are exempt.

Amtrak has this policy, as well, and I've yet to see a similar search. In fact, I never have been asked once for IT when showing my ticket.

by kob on Jun 14, 2013 12:48 pm • linkreport

If he is arguing that the search is coercive, he himself does not seem to have been coerced into it.

That is not proof that it isn't coercive - or meant to be. Just as the fact that few women were persuaded to go out with me in my single days isn't proof that my behavior wasn't meant to be persuasive.

by David C on Jun 14, 2013 1:01 pm • linkreport

He was faced with a choice: give up 4th amendment right or change plans without benefit of fore-planning. Either outcome can be seen as the result of coercion b/c it forced him to do something he didn't want to do, didn't plan to do.

by Tina on Jun 14, 2013 1:21 pm • linkreport

I do enjoy the slams on liberals. Refusing to enter a location because they want to search your bag = you should probably be detained, asking people to submit to a background check before buying a deadly weapon = squashing every last bit of freedom. I'd suggest those who think like this donate their brains to science, so that we can get a more complete understanding of how some people's brains so thoroughly compartmentalize information, but I'm a little unsure they even *have* brains.

When they wanted to check my bag, I asked them how. They said they would swab it. I asked them what the swab was made of and if it was treated with oil or any other liquid. The guy said he didn't know. I told him I'd need his information before he touched my bag, because if he damaged my $500 purse I was making sure it came out of his paycheck. He let me go without testing my bag, but if he would have persisted, I would have also left. But it sure is fun to be *almost* as annoying as they are. Plus it really underscores that this is NOTHING but theater. If they had ANY reason to search my bag, ANY suspicion or cause, a little annoyance wouldn't deter them. But, since this is just for show, they give up easily.

Finally, if an officer tries to ask me questions I don't feel like answering, I just don't answer them. If they persist or try to keep me from departing, I simply ask them if I am under arrest or free to go. I've never gotten a response other than some variation of "get out of here." All this stuff was written down somewhere...an amendment or something maybe?

by Ms. D on Jun 14, 2013 1:21 pm • linkreport

You don't consider it a major disruption if you get to the metro station and then suddenly have to find some other way to get to work?

he was lucky to be at a station that also had decent bus service nearby that took him in the direction of his destination.

I think to say the author "had" to find another way to work is a bit tenuous considering he voluntarily chose not to submit to the search. I'm puzzled that someone who seems to have extensive opinions on security theatrics, civil rights issues and working knowledge of Metro's internal security policies would be "stunned" at a bag check and further unaware that such checks do not normally require warrants. Did he actually think he could board the train after refusing the search? Believe me, I hate security theatrics as much as the next guy, but I can't bring myself to accept the niavete angle.

Also, how does one "refuse to be coerced"? Doesn't that contradict the very definition of coercion (the use of force or intimidation to obtain compliance)? The fact that this story did not end in the author having to submit to the bag search undermines the position that he was coerced.

But anyway, do you have any experience with the very disruptive inconvenience of the bag search?

by Scoot on Jun 14, 2013 1:25 pm • linkreport

Scoot_ I think to say the author "had" to find another way to work is a bit tenuous considering he voluntarily chose not to submit to the search.

A.Was authors clear plan and desire to take the train? yes.
B. Did author take the operable train? No.
Why not? He was faced with giving up a right or not taking the train. Not taking the train was the less offensive of two bad options. It was a direct outcome. Its not tenuous at all.

Also, how does one "refuse to be coerced"?

You're being obtuse. But since you may really be obtuse here's an extreme example:

Person A: "Scream and I'll kill you"
Person B: Screams (while thinking to self "how dare you try and tell me what to do you motherfucker"

This is an incident from my experience. I refused to be coerced. Instead, I screamed, and ran.

Here's a less extreme example: Surrender you 4th amendment right or don't board the train.

do you have any experience with the very disruptive inconvenience of the bag search?

Why does it matter? (no). The very reason this program is ineffectual is b/c of the vanishingly small proportion of people who are subject to it. Even though I have not been forced into choosing from the two lousy outcomes this program coerces people into choosing does not mean I am not troubled by this program. I am troubled by a lot of injustices that I myself have not had to suffer. I care about living in a civil society. I want to prepare myself ahead of time for how I will react when/if faced by this coercion. I think I will take @Ms D's approach! Good one @Ms D.!

by Tina on Jun 14, 2013 1:46 pm • linkreport

@ Tina

I'm confused -- you talk about the "major disruptive convenience" which you imply several times impedes the proper functioning of civil society, yet at the same time say that the program subjects a "vanishingly small proportion of people" to a search, which I might add is voluntary and upheld to be constitutional. So which is it, exactly? Very disruptive or vanishingly minor?

I was asking whether you had direct experience with the bag searches because of your steadfast opinion on the level at which people are disrupted by their occurrence. Since Americans are used to having their bags checked (like at most pro sports events, museums, airports, gov't buildings, etc), you'd think people would be used to it now -- for better or worse. I'd be happy to hear from anyone who was significantly inconvenienced by the bag check if those folks want to come forward. Do you know of any?

by Scoot on Jun 14, 2013 2:12 pm • linkreport

I'd add to Tina: constitutional rights are not dependent on the opinion of the majority. If a majority of people want to give up their 4th amendment rights, it does not follow that I have to give up mine. For a more concrete example, anti-miscegenation laws were VERY popular in the South, but were struck down by the Supreme Court.

by SJE on Jun 14, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

Whether you like it or not, what MTPD did was entirely legal. The 4th Circuit (I believe) have upheld this form of search. Probable cause is not required - you have no Constitutional right to take a specific mode of transportation. You can opt out by taking another mode. You chose to take another mode operated by the same government agency - meaning they have the same right to apply the same thing there. If you were stopped or followed into a taxi or some other non-WMATA form of transportation, you'd be in the right.

As far as whether this is an effective counter-terrorism strategy is obviously open to debate. Personally, I think random bag searches do, in fact, deter some terrorists. If terrorists were given the option between taking a train that is subject to random bag searches and a train that is not, I think it's pretty obvious which train they'd take. You make light of the whole "visibility" thing, but that's the most effective part of policing in general -- a visible presence.

by Esq. on Jun 14, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

Whether you like it or not, what MTPD did was entirely legal.

That doesn't make it acceptable, and it doesn't mean its not a form of coercion or intimidation. The program provides no safety improvement. Thus, what is its purpose? The only purpose is to coerce/intimidate people into a search. There are many things that used to be entirely legal that are no longer so. Laws are mutable.

If terrorists were given the option between taking a train that is subject to random bag searches and a train that is not, I think it's pretty obvious which train they'd take.

And this is precisely why this program is ineffectual - only a tiny proportion of trains and riders are subject to the search.

by Tina on Jun 14, 2013 2:49 pm • linkreport

I suspect that the main reason we haven't had a bombing at a crowded security checkpoint is that the checkpoints are so effective at spreading fear and terror.

by David R. on Jun 14, 2013 2:49 pm • linkreport

@scoot -@Scoot -you imply several times impedes the proper functioning of civil society, yet at the same time say that the program subjects a "vanishingly small proportion of people" to a search, which I might add is voluntary and upheld to be constitutional. So which is it, exactly? Very disruptive or vanishingly minor?

I didn't day "minor". I said small proportion of riders. Its disruptive to the individuals affected by it! They matter. You're willing to dismiss violations of civil rights b/c only a small proportion of people suffer those violations? Protecting individual rights is (part of) what makes a civil society civil.

Imagine someone at the West Hyattsville metro stop in the morning- it would be VERY disruptive to find comparable alternative transportation. I feel you are intentionally refusing to imagine how changing your travel plans instantaneously can be majorly disruptive in the same way you were intentionally refusing to acknowledge that someone can resist coercion.

by Tina on Jun 14, 2013 2:51 pm • linkreport

While quite easy to cynically dismiss bag searches as security theater, such tactics have clear benefits including improving the popular perception of safety. Confidence that the system is safe, in turn, encourages ridership and -- for many people -- cooperation with and reliance upon law enforcement. Thus, both add REAL security and REAL safety to transit systems...even if they start out as "theater."

The author's fears about his laptop hard drive being copied are nothing short of paranoid in this context.

Finally, bag searches would have much greater positive effect on security if they were NOT conducted in a compulsory random fashion to appease hysterical fears of run amok discrimination by racist police. If officers were permitted to exercise discretion, relying for example on behavioral cues from riders, they might actually prevent bombers or---more likely---gun-toting thugs from boarding trains.

Infrequently, yes. But most would agree keeping a single bomb out of a single train, or a single pistol even, is a big success.

When absurdly twisted politics dictate than ONLY every 16th bag (or whatever) gets searched, the security benefits do indeed suffer sharply, since searches are easily circumvented. But that's hardly the fault of police; instead we can blame foolish activists and cowardly WMATA administrators.

I can just see the officers on the bus grinning over your self-inflicted ideological, tooth-grinding tizzy. Hard not to chuckle, myself.

by Delighted on Jun 14, 2013 3:07 pm • linkreport

I feel you are intentionally refusing to imagine how changing your travel plans instantaneously can be majorly disruptive in the same way you were intentionally refusing to acknowledge that someone can resist coercion.

OMG really? You did ride Metro, right? If so, you surely know that it often requires making instantaneous changes to one's travel plans based on delays, broke-down trains, etc.

Case in point, I get a bit claustrophobic on some very crowded Metro trains and so I occasionally (particularly in the summer when the A/C in the cars is broken) leave the system to take an alternate transit (bus, bikeshare, whatever) either directly to my destination but usually to another line on the system (which is what the author did). On rare occasions I will leave after having paid. This is a decision which you referred to as "the less offensive of two options". So indeed I do know how it feels to change my plans instantaneously.

On the other hand, I don't know the feeling of choosing to change my travel plans so as to avoid a bag search. Personally, convenience of getting to my destination quickly outweighs the momentary inconvenience of a perfectly legal bag search, one of many that I have been subject to innumerable times in the past and will continue to be so subject in the future. I see it as a worthless exercise in security theatrics, but I don't see it as a major disruptive convenience nor a particularly offensive infringement of civil rights. But that's just me!

by Scoot on Jun 14, 2013 3:13 pm • linkreport

^I should actually clarify that I don't think that the bag checks are "worthless"; they have been shown in a number of instances to deter terrorist activity. But the officers who carry out these plans often do not possess the necessary training to spot suspicious activity, and of course since we Americans love our freedoms, it is difficult for law enforcement to carry out truly effective security programs like in most other countries. It's also rather difficult to make an accurate cost-benefit analysis of the programs or to be open to the public about how they work considering much of the information is designed to be non-disclosed.

by Scoot on Jun 14, 2013 3:19 pm • linkreport

For all those who are such fans of the searches, you are not alone. Putin has just came out in favor of current American anti-terrorism methods. What an endorsement!

by Alan B. on Jun 14, 2013 3:19 pm • linkreport

@Scoot - the reason you describe for changing your travel plans are not precipitated on acquiescence of your 4th amendment right, and further more they affect everyone on the train/in the system equally at the same time. Its not a comparable example.

the convenience of getting to my destination quickly outweighs the momentary inconvenience of a perfectly legal bag search,

But that's just me!

Exactly.

I see it as a worthless exercise in security theatrics

Isn't this enough of a reason to oppose the resources devoted to it?

Once again, see @Ms D's description of her experience.

by Tina on Jun 14, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

you surely know that it [metro] often requires making instantaneous changes to one's travel plans based on delays, broke-down trains, etc.

And this set of circumstances is so disruptive its a major concern and topic of discussion, hand wringing and fretting. What if these sorts of disruptions affected only a small proportion of riders? Would the disruptions be acceptable then?

by Tina on Jun 14, 2013 3:27 pm • linkreport

What a complete waste of their time and resources. Instead of doing their jobs and solving crimes that occur every day--they follow someone around for no apparent reason. Talk about wasteful and pointless police spending!

by Matt S on Jun 14, 2013 3:49 pm • linkreport

@Scoot - the reason you describe for changing your travel plans are not precipitated on acquiescence of your 4th amendment right, and further more they affect everyone on the train/in the system equally at the same time. Its not a comparable example.

Actually what you said was that I refused to imagine how changing my plans could be disruptive. I gave you a concrete example of how I deal with that regularly. So indeed I can imagine it.


And this set of circumstances is so disruptive its a major concern and topic of discussion, hand wringing and fretting. What if these sorts of disruptions affected only a small proportion of riders? Would the disruptions be acceptable then?

Depends on the circumstance. I suppose they could be given the limited amount of resources we have to devote to myriad issues affecting the system. Certainly GGW glosses over a lot of issues that affect a larger number of people than the bag search issue.

Isn't this enough of a reason to oppose the resources devoted to it?

Sure. I have said multiple times that I oppose the bag searches. I just don't think they are coercive, incredibly disruptive or unconstitutional. You're free to disagree.

by Scoot on Jun 14, 2013 3:58 pm • linkreport

Scoot, I sort of agree with you. I am however VERY troubled by the increasingly secret police-like atmosphere in this country. I mean I'm sure a lot of us were here on 9/11 or in NYC and it was pretty awful, but this culture of fear we got going on seems to be aiding and abetting increasing constitutional overreaches. It doesn't help that the CIA/FBI and similar organizations have a long history of using such excuses to persecute dissidents.

by Alan B. on Jun 14, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

The author's fears about his laptop hard drive being copied are nothing short of paranoid in this context.

Huh?

such tactics have clear benefits including improving the popular perception of safety.

No one thinks we're more safe because of this. So that isn't true.

Look let's talk about the threat we're talking about here. Since 2001, how many major bombings on transit systems has there been - 2? That's one more than the number of major nightclub bombings by the way. How many trains have run just in the US, Canada and Europe? Millions and millions? Moving billions of In fact in over 100 years I don't believe the NYC subway has EVER been bombed.

And really, what's stopping someone who has a bomb from taking it on a train in any city in the US? Pretty much nothing. So that's the incredibly easy part.

Thus, taking a bomb on a train is as easy as taking a book on a train and it rarely ever happens which must mean that either making/getting a bomb is really really difficult and/or exceeding few people want to do it. Either way, I put the over/under on a Metro bombing at about once every 200 years.

So how many resources should we dedicate to such an unlikely event? Add in the fact that there is almost nothing we can do to stop someone who can get a bomb to the Metro entrance who is determined to detonate it on a train. [Maybe bomb sniffing dogs at every entrance? But at what cost?]

And then add in that THIS is doing nothing. In fact, it is signaling to potential bombers that we really have no defense at all.

If we're really OK with lying to people, ignoring their privacy (within the limits of the law) and wasting resources, surely we can do better than this. Example: plant stories about our new amazing, secret bomb detecting technology which we are deploying to train systems nationwide. Have 60 Minutes do stories about it. Occasionally "thwart" a bomb-carrying terrorist. At least then, you'll push terrorists towards softer targets which is the best we can hope for anyway (Victory?).

by David C on Jun 14, 2013 4:16 pm • linkreport

Nice going, Eric. Just another indication that Metro is a hapless operation--from top to bottom and inside and out. I mean, can anyone point to ONE thing they do well? It's more of a disgrace to this city than the Wizards.

by Mario on Jun 14, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

Have 60 Minutes do stories about it.

With special mention of soiled diapers

by Tina on Jun 14, 2013 4:31 pm • linkreport

I think the people above who mention consistency are spot on. I know when I go to an airport my bag and my person will be searched, and I make decisions on if I want to fly on a plane with this knowledge. I feel confident there that submitting to that search actually improves my safety, because I know that every single person on the other side of the checkpoint has been searched the same way.

On a metro train, though, why should I submit to a search when 80%+ of the people on the train I board did not submit to that search? I am no safer - a terrorist could have just have easily boarded a different station and gotten on the very same train I am riding with whatever they have in their bag. On any given day, there are only two or three of these checkpoints, and they cannot affect more than 5-15% of riders. That does nothing but violate the fourth amendment rights of a small group of people every day. It isn't improving safety, it's eroding the constitution.

And for a pair of police officers to follow and intimidate a citizen is unacceptable. If it was about safety, why not stop the author and question him? Why not follow him once he got off the bus to see where he went? Why was he so dangerous he could not board a train without his bag being searched by he is suddenly no threat at all to a metro bus full of riders without that same search while carrying that same bag?

by ShawGuy on Jun 14, 2013 5:09 pm • linkreport

Some of the NAZI comments on this story are sickening. We are in a Police State now and all you sheeple seem to believe is that it's ok. It's not ok ! If it's ok to you then move away to North Korea or China. This is America where we have the right to speak our minds, to freely travel down the road, and to not have some stranger who carries a gun and wears a costume to rummage thru our personal items. Suspicion alone does not rise to the level of facts to constitute probable cause to stop this man. This man had every right to not be harassed by a bunch of thugs that call themselves cops. They are not cops, they are THUGS ! The PEOPLE bet start wising up and voting out these so called elected politicians that are voting our rights away.

by Joe on Jun 14, 2013 5:14 pm • linkreport

@ ShawGuy "I think the people above who mention consistency are spot on. I know when I go to an airport my bag and my person will be searched, and I make decisions on if I want to fly on a plane with this knowledge. I feel confident there that submitting to that search actually improves my safety, because I know that every single person on the other side of the checkpoint has been searched the same way."

Airports are even worse. They put a lot more effort into trying to humiliate you there - shoes off, empty pockets, etc. Or I should say U.S. airports do. Security at most of the overseas airports I have flown through is much less invasive.

by Chris S. on Jun 14, 2013 5:21 pm • linkreport

ShawGuy, 5-15% is a wild overestimate. Considering they are only at one station at a time, and only at one entrance, for a few hours and only check every 12th person or so, it seems like the number is closer to 0.1%. It would be very unlikely to have any effect on a terrorist, even if the terrorist was so unobservant as not to notice a bag check was taking place (and then enter at another entrance or the next station instead).

by KCIvey on Jun 14, 2013 11:46 pm • linkreport

@ Shawguy
If you think going through airport security 'improves' your safety because its consistently applied, have you ever considered that an actual terrorist would probably apply for and get hired to be the security person?

Please educate yourself:
http://www.schneier.com/

Thank you!

by Flimflam on Jun 15, 2013 12:31 am • linkreport

I should also clarify about when I refuse to speak to the police. It is, indeed, a rare circumstance, but has come up on two common occasions in my life.

The first is drunk driving checkpoints. Now, there is implied consent when driving a vehicle, so the officers are totally within their bounds to check my ID and ask me if I've been drinking. I will gladly fork over my driver's license and confirm that I am sober, but I will not answer the very next question they always ask: "where are you headed to tonight?" I politely as possible inform the officer that "I mean no disrespect, but that is none of your business." I have been giving that answer for nearly 15 years now, and it is my right to do so.

The second was MUCH more necessary when I was in college/grad school. The state had pretty tough public intox laws, and the town where I went to school's cops made a sport of grabbing up anyone who so much as stumbled over a curb and tossing them in the drunk tank, giving many decent students a criminal record that *really* hampers their employment options. At times (big party weekends), they'd even hang out on the sidewalk, "bump" into people, and then arrest them for pubic intox if they faltered after being body-checked. So, if a cop asks me if I've been drinking, my answer, again, is "that is none of your business," followed promptly by "am I under arrest, or am I free to go" if they continue trying to talk to/question me.

I do think that people would do well to stand up for their rights a smidge more.

by Ms. D on Jun 15, 2013 2:16 am • linkreport

To all those willing to throw Mr. Fidler to the wolves because YOU think he acted suspiciously:

The cops had absolutely no reason to have anything to do with Mr. Fidler. Not one thing Eric did rose to the level that provided "reasonable suspicion" since the initial, non-consensual transaction was already edging into a violation of the fourth amendment.

If you are foolish enough to give up your rights, we can't help you. But, don't be so foolish to believe that means you can use your complicity to demand others be such fools.

by Richard S on Jun 15, 2013 8:00 am • linkreport

Chris S. is exactly right. A while back in the Las Vegas airport, we were rushing to get to our gate, and I had forgotten to take a small unopened bottle of water out of my bag. You would have thought I had tried to bring an AK-47 through or something the way the agent loudly explained to me (after I was called over to stand in front of him at his station, in front of everyone in line) that my little bottle of water was a banned item. I said "Hey, I forgot it was in there, throw it away so I can get going." He proceeded to try to stare me down for a full 10 seconds like he was trying to decide if I could go or not before finally giving me my bag and letting me go. All he was doing was trying to humiliate me. In Mexico, they just dump out your bags, throw away anything they want, then you have to re-pack everything. it's actually easier, quicker and less intimidating. (except for the guys with uzis standing around the airport...)

by Jay on Jun 15, 2013 9:44 am • linkreport

Can anyone list how a bag search does anything ?

If someone did have something lets say a bomb and they got searched wouldn't they just set it off right there so the search would do nothing except having it go boom somewhere else.

What I find worst than the bag searches are the damn dogs some of us are allergic to fur and having a dog walk all over the place leaving particles of fur everywhere is a health hazard.

by kk on Jun 16, 2013 1:13 am • linkreport

In today's America, exercising what you believe to be your 4th Amendment rights is in the eyes of Law Enforcement suspicious behavior. It's as simple as that. You should defer to their authority, unquestioningly comply with their orders, and be happy that they are keeping you safe.

And while you might not like when they are violating your rights, most people don't care about the systematic violation of rights of others. Random bag searches bother you when you ride metro, or intrusive pat downs at the airport when you fly, but how much complaining about it had you done before it was you who were being "victimized" or "violated"?

by Joe M. on Jun 16, 2013 4:39 pm • linkreport

In today's America, exercising what you believe to be your 4th Amendment rights is in the eyes of Law Enforcement suspicious behavior.

So true. My best friend from high school moved from New York City to Houston. For the first few weeks he had New York plates and he got pulled over on I-10 and I-45 about once every other day. They would tell him he was driving erratically or something and let him "off with a warning." Sometimes they then asked to search his trunk and sometimes they didn't. Eventually a coworker told him it was the plates. That Houston cops had learned that drug dealers would drive down from the northeast to pick up drugs along the Texas border and that they could catch them this way.

So the next time he refused to let them search his trunk. All hell broke loose. "What are you trying to hide" and "we're just trying to catch drug dealers, why wouldn't you want to help us - unless YOU'RE a drug dealer?" etc...They called a judge and he drove out to the spot and they had a drug dog walking around the car and the Judge issues a search warrant based on "blood-shot eyes" and the smell of weed or something. Of course they found nothing. Then, for the first time, he was given a ticket - for an illegal lane change or something - and sent on his way. The whole thing took like 5 hours. He got his plates changed the next day.

So yeah, refusal is often treated as suspicious behavior.

by David C on Jun 16, 2013 11:08 pm • linkreport

So yeah, refusal is often treated as suspicious behavior.

Yeah, this is an unfortunate outcome of not properly training officers to spot actual suspicious behavior.

Knowingly refusing and thereby inviting suspicion as to one's behavior is a somewhat fruitless exercise of protest given that one person's refusal, or even a thousand people's refusal, is unlikely to improve the enforcement practice, so I think that's why most people still consent. In that sense the search could be somewhat coercive as the person must choose between consenting and being held up for 5 hours.

by Scoot on Jun 17, 2013 10:33 am • linkreport

A cop friend told me that they have a name for persons exhibiting this behavior: "MLTs" -- "myopic little twits."

by James on Jun 17, 2013 11:21 am • linkreport

Yeah, namecalling people who disagree is really constructive. Especially people who exercise their 4th Amendment civil rights.

by David Alpert on Jun 17, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

@DA. -- that's rich from someone who consistently labels people "antis"

by Skant on Jun 17, 2013 2:48 pm • linkreport

Just wear headphones and pretend they don't exist. No need to engage in any verbal discussions. If someone gets in front of you, just step around them. They know they can't detain someone for optional searches and non-refusal but not opting in puts them in a precarious situation where they can't legally stop you from taking the train.
If they physically try and restrain you, ask if you're being detained, if not, then proceed. If you are, call up a lawyer, get a nice settlement.

by Derpy on Jun 17, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

Just wear headphones and pretend they don't exist. No need to engage in any verbal discussions. If someone gets in front of you, just step around them.

Interesting advice. Have you ever done it before? What were the results?

by Scoot on Jun 17, 2013 3:17 pm • linkreport

"I refused the search, which is mostly about theatrics than actual security. I didn't want to enable what critics have labeled "security theater", the symbolic show of force to give the appearance of protection."
-----

The same can be said about the TSA bs at the airports. Refuse to participate and you end up on the no-fly list.

And we tolerate it.

by ceefer on Jun 17, 2013 3:35 pm • linkreport

Half the people here: "Take my Fourth Amendment rights...please." Where's your pass, citizen?

by Igor on Jun 17, 2013 5:30 pm • linkreport

> What would that person's intention be for turning around and walking to the other entrance?

Just a wild guess, but I would imagine their intention was to travel somewhere on the train without having their privacy violated. Crazy, I know.

by Rob on Jun 17, 2013 10:57 pm • linkreport

Metro Transit police have jurisdiction over buses also. If a guy tries to find an alternate entrance without cops, then tries to evade cops on a bus, why SHOULDN'T they follow him? It's called "doing their job".

by miacane on Jun 18, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

You think TSA works? I've accidentally brought all kinds of things on planes I forgot about including pocket knives. The one thing they got once was an unopened bottle of orange juice which the TSA agent decided he'd like to have for himself...

by Alan B. on Jun 18, 2013 12:04 pm • linkreport

@miacane

Are you positing that it is the job of the Metro Transit police to follow and tail anyone who avoids them? So Avoiding The Police is now a crime? Avoiding a needless hassle is a crime?

People in America are so bleeping stupid these days.

by Joe on Jun 19, 2013 2:39 pm • linkreport

Eric Fidler is a babe!

by aitory on Jun 19, 2013 6:08 pm • linkreport

While I could agree that the police seemingly wasted their time in this case, Fidler's behavior certainly would have raised the suspicion of any police officer in that position. Perhaps he posed a threat, or perhaps he didn't consent to the search because his bag contained evidence of other criminality. Fidler may think he was making a principled stand, but was this the way to make an effective political statement? All he does is raise suspicion for the police there. And, his game-playing with getting on and off? Comical, but not in a good way.

For those saying the police should have realized they had better things to do, what about Fidler? Jeepers. Just let 'em check your bag, unless you've got something there you shouldn't have....and then feel free to walk away, but don't be surprised if you haven't made the officers suspicious of you and your bag.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Jun 20, 2013 9:38 am • linkreport

They were trying to provoke you to say or do something that would fall into the grey area to give them legal cause to detain you. Law Enforcement are trained in such tactics, because it is not illegal for them to follow you in public, but they do it in such a menacing and down right insulting way in the hopes you will confront them, at which point they can say you became disruptive and/or acted disorderly, therefore you were taken into custody. Law enforcement, unfortunately, has become a game of legal semantics, rather then what the spirit intended to be.

by H. Amador on Dec 3, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

I would advise never riding Metrorail without a bicycle, folding bicycle, or other backup transportation. That way, you can routinly refuse to approach any station with cops or other visible problems and ride to another one. The TSA or other Gestapo won't even know where you are going and cannot tail a bike effectively. They won't even try. If the system is really "hot," forget Metro and just ride the bike. Avoid all WMATA property after a confrontation. If you refuse to approach, however, you will be ignored and can go to the next station if you want to push it.

I have avoided Metro since the original 2008 bag search controversy. I do not carry ID and I refuse to enter any building with search checkpoints on principle: never consent to a search. If you do not have or want a car, consider the busses as they have never been the starting point of bag searches, even if they can follow you onto their own busses.

Hell, it is legal if followed to say "I am going to jog home" and take off running. He has no probable cause to follow, if he gets physical it is assault and a nice pot of lawsuit money to buy a car or a moped with,

by Luke on Dec 5, 2013 7:02 pm • linkreport

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