NEW ORLEANS – The ACLU of Louisiana has spoken out against a recently announced plan to have NOPD officers remind motorists of COVID-19 social distancing restrictions while stopping vehicles at checkpoints.
“The Constitution is clear: Police cannot stop vehicles and question occupants unless they reasonably suspect criminal activity,” ACLU of Louisiana executive director Alanah Odoms Hebert said. “All Louisianans have a basic right to move around the city without being stopped by police, unless they are breaking a law. There are far better ways to educate the public about the dangers of COVID-19 than arbitrarily stopping motorists who haven’t done anything wrong.”
The NOPD announced this week that the Traffic Division will conduct seatbelt checkpoints throughout the city. Officers will also use these checkpoints to provide information regarding the current stay-at home order in place within Orleans Parish due to the current COVID-19 public health crisis.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell recently extended the city’s stay-at-home mandate through May 16. The vehicle checkpoints will continue while the order is in place.
“Rather than stopping the spread of COVID-19, these checkpoints will exacerbate it by needlessly increasing the interactions between police and the public,” Hebert said. “We’re also deeply concerned that these checkpoints will be used as a pretext for invasive and racially-biased searches, fueling our mass incarceration crisis while doing little to improve public safety. We’ll be monitoring NOPD’s implementation closely and standing ready to defend people’s constitutional rights.”