The next time police force you off the road, they may want more than your driver’s license; they may want a sample of your saliva.
A practice call “Stop and Swab,” in which law enforcement check points are used to gather saliva samples from motorists and test for drug use, is spreading across the country.
Uniformed police apparently forced drivers in Reading, Pennsylvania, to undergo a mouth swab conducted by a private company, according to The Reading Eagle. Police blocked a public street and redirected vehicles into a parking lot where contractors working for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration swabbed their mouths.
“I feel this incident is a gross abuse of power on many levels,” Ricardo Nieves, one of the drivers who was stopped, told Reading’s City Council. “A federal survey with local police violates my rights.”
Nieves was upset by the presence of uniformed police and a patrol car. He thinks the officers were present in an attempt to intimidate drivers into taking the test.
He also told the newspaper he had to tell a lady several times he didn’t want to participate before she let him go.
Forced Drug Test
Nieves wasn’t told why contractors with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation swabbed his mouth. Nieves said he assumed that the swab was part of a DNA test.
The swab was actually a drug test designed to detect the presence of prescription drugs, Reading Police Chief William M. Heim said. Heim told The Reading Eagle newspaper that the two agencies were trying to determine how many drivers were under the influence of drugs. It is part of a study on road safety and crashes, the company said.
The test was part of a federal survey of drug use that has been going on since the 1970s, Heim said. Other city officials were upset because they were not aware of the operation or police involvement in it.
Both Reading Mayor Vaugn D. Spencer and Managing Director (city manager) Carole B. Snyder were aware of the checkpoint. Council members were also upset that city resources were used for the checkpoint.
Similar tests have been conducted in the Dallas and Fort Worth area and Alabama in the last year. The AL.com website reported that drivers in Alabama were paid $10 for a mouth swab and $50 for a blood test.
Drivers are told the anonymous samples gathered are not used as evidence.
And A Blood Test, Too?
Drivers in Fort Worth, Texas, in November faced a similar roadblock, where police and federal contractors asked for samples of their breath, saliva and blood.
The tests supposedly are voluntary, but Kim Cope, who was on her lunch break when forced to pull over on a busy street, begged to differ.
“I gestured to the guy in front that I just wanted to go straight, but he wouldn’t let me and forced me into a parking spot,” she told the station.
Meanwhile, a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling seems to give police the power to conduct a “stop and swab” on anybody suspected of a crime. In the case, Maryland vs. King, the court ruled 5-4 that police can conduct DNA tests on anybody who is under arrest without a search warrant.
“Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA, is like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,” Justice Antony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.