Off Duty Alabama Cops Collected DNA And Blood Samples At Roadblocks
In a rather bizarre incident, police in two Alabama counties are being questions over roadblocks they set up over the weekend at which they collected DNA and blood samples from passing motorists:
PELL CITY, Alabama — St. Clair and Bibb county authorities are confirming there were roadblocks at several locations in their counties Friday and Saturday asking for blood and DNA samples. However, the samples were voluntary and motorists were paid for them as part of a study, they said.
According to Lt. Freddie Turrentine of the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department, it isn’t the first time such roadblocks have occurred in the area.
“They were here in 2007,” said Turrentine, the supervisor in charge of the roadblocks, which took place in several locations in St. Clair County Friday night, early Saturday morning and Saturday night and early Sunday morning. “It’s just with social media and Facebook now, word of it has just exploded.”
Turrentine said the roadblocks were part of a study conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, working with the National Highway Safety Administration. St. Clair County was asked to participate by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs because it had worked with the group six years ago.
Sheriff Keith Hannah in Bibb County said they too had previously participated in the study.
Here’s how the roadblocks worked:
Off-duty St. Clair County deputies stopped cars at random at road block areas. The road blocks were marked with signs stating it was a paid survey. Cars stopped were asked for voluntary cooperation. Drivers were offered $10 for a mouth swab, and $50 for a blood test. If they refused, they were free to drive away.
Road blocks took place Friday at the New London Fire Department, Alabama 34 in Pell City near the old Dan’s Car Wash, U.S. 231 at Alabama 144, at White’s Chapel Parkway and Moody Crossroads in Moody. In Bibb County, the road blocks took place in five areas in the county on Friday night through early Sunday morning.
If drivers participated, they were directed to
an area where someone from the group carrying out the study took the samples, he said.
“It was completely voluntary,” Turrentine said, saying reports that people were detained if they did not cooperate were untrue. “If they didn’t want to take part, they could drive off.”
The samples were anonymous, he said
As it turns out, the survey was being conducted on behalf of an agency of the Federal Government:
According to Ucles, the Office of Drug Control Policy is contributing funding and support for the study, which is going on in 60 sites around the nation. The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation is conducting the tests through this fall. St. Clair and Bibb county officials said this would be the only time the road blocks are conducted this year.
The samples, Ucles said, were used to measure whether drivers had the presence of over-the-counter, prescription and illegal drugs in their systems, or alcohol and the driver’s individual blood alcohol concentration.
Ucles said there were four previous national roadside surveys conducted in 1973, 1986, 1996 and 2007, but this is only the second time a survey has obtained data on drug use by drivers.
The survey used deputies to stop traffic, he said, for traffic safety.
“If you’re doing roadblocks and asking people to stop, you have to have the deputies there to make sure everything is safe,” he said. “It’s not about detaining anybody, because the survey is voluntary and anonymous. It’s about making sure the traffic is safe in that area.”
I would have two questions about these surveys. First, were the off duty officers doing the random stops in uniform and using their official vehicles at the time of the stops? Second, were participants made aware of the fact that the survey in question was being conducted on behalf of a government agency? As for the survey itself, I suppose I understand the need to collect data such as this, but I do find the manner in which the survey was conducted to be, well, just darned odd to say that least.
H/T Caroline May