Residents say too many police checkpointsPublished 10:21pm Tuesday, September 17, 2013
by Leah Justice
A recent joint police operation brought a couple to the Polk County Board of Commissioner meeting saying the checkpoints are violating their rights.
Debbie and Art Arceneaux both spoke at the commissioners’ Sept. 9 meeting saying involving Homeland Security in a recent operation allowed the Polk County Sheriff’s Office to “bend the rules a little.”
Debbie Arceneaux said the Aug. 29 joint operation was the second time the agencies came together in that capacity and she is opposed to it. She said Homeland Security has purchased more than 9 billion rounds of ammunition and she doesn’t understand why they have to be involved in Polk County with its 20,000 citizens.
“In the past year I’ve gone through these checkpoints at least eight times,” Debbie Arceneaux said. “A lot of people are really upset about this. A lot of people are afraid.”
She said people are afraid to go out during the night and some are afraid to go out during the day.
Art Arceneaux said his concern is non-local entities policing area communities.
“They abide by different law,” Art Arceneaux said. “They came to expand the capabilities of local officers. It clears them to not have to abide by rules.”
Art Arceneaux said combining these task forces “kind of bends the rules a little bit,” and he can read the laws and statutes and it gets confusing.
“An officer on site has an interpretation of what rights he has and what rights you have,” Art Arceneaux said.
The policies for conducting a roadblock go right out the window, Art Arceneaux said. They need to have a policy, it has to be written, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be written, he said.
He said he understands there are drugs going through this town, but as a law abiding citizen who comes up on flashing blue lights, you believe there’s an accident, then all of a sudden police are waving their flashlights with blue lights in your face and there’s no sign that says this is a license/safety check.
“I think it would be nice if they specify their policy,” Art Arceneaux said, “publicize their policies. It’s almost a dangerous situation.”
The Arceneauxs specifically spoke of a joint operation held on Aug. 29 by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the Homeland Security, Alcohol Law Enforcement, the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, N.C. Highway Patrol, Tryon and Columbus Police Departments. The operation resulted in 31 charges, including 11 persons arrested and several citations issued.
Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill said Homeland Security organized the event and assisted with funding. Hill was not present during the Arceneauxs’ comments on Sept. 9 and said he will address the concerns at a later date.
The Bulletin also received a letter to the editor regarding roadblocks from Christine Hatfield, of Mill Spring, who said many citizens are upset with the increasing number of roadblocks in Polk County. She also said license and registration roadblock are illegal and reviews state statutes regarding roadblocks. (see letter page 10)
“At night, they are downright dangerous,” Hatfield said. “Recently, Homeland Security had collaborated with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department and the Town of Columbus Police on a roadblock. Will this collaboration result in free goodies, such as riot control gear from the feds?”