The New Orleans Police Department’s (NOPD) plan to conduct “informational” check stops of motorists to “promote public safety and awareness” during the continued COVID-19 crisis has met some opposition, with the ACLU of Louisiana urging city officials to shelve a plan because of serious concerns for constitutional rights and public health. 

Earlier this week the NOPD announced that its 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 has extended the city’s stay-at-home order through May 16.

“The Constitution is clear: Police cannot stop vehicles and question occupants unless they reasonably suspect criminal activity,” said Alanah Odoms Hebert, ACLU of Louisiana executive director. “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.”

Odoms says the plan would likely do more harm than good.

“Rather than stopping the spread of COVID-19, these checkpoints will exacerbate it by needlessly increasing the interactions between police and the public,” Hebert adds. “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.” 

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