Kansas Troopers ‘Waged War On Motorists’ With Bogus Stops, Interrogations: Judge

“The Kansas Highway Patrol has waged war on motorists — especially out-of-state residents traveling between Colorado and Missouri on federal highway I-70,” a federal decide declared on Friday in a scathing condemnation of tyrannical practices embedded in police coaching.  

Among these practices is one thing cops name the “Kansas Two-Step.” After pulling you over for a site visitors violation and shelling out both a warning or a ticket, a cop begins strolling away, however then turns again and asks, “Hey, can I ask you something?” 

What seems like a pleasant conversational query is definitely supposed to trick you. As Reason’s Jacob Sullum explains: 

“Police are not supposed to continue detaining you after the ostensible purpose of the stop has been accomplished unless they reasonably suspect you are involved in criminal activity.

The two-step is designed to extend the encounter by making it notionally voluntary, giving the officer a chance to elicit incriminating information, ask for permission to search your car, and/or walk a drug-sniffing dog around the vehicle.”

Troopers are taught the method of their coaching, however US District Judge Kathryn Vratil mentioned, “the theory that a driver who remains on the scene gives knowing and voluntary consent to further questioning is nothing but a convenient fiction.”

“Troopers occupy a position of power and authority during a traffic stop,” wrote Vratil, an appointee of George H.W. Bush, “and when a trooper quickly re-approaches a driver after a traffic stop and continues to ask questions, the authority that a trooper wields—combined with the fact that most motorists do not know that they are free to leave and KHP troopers deliberately decline to tell them that they are free to leave—communicates a strong message that the driver is not free to leave.”

Judge Kathryn Vratil was appointed by George H.W. Bush

The Kansas Two-Step is only one piece of a policing regime that Vratil rightly discovered objectionable. In her decision, Vratil additionally criticized pretextual site visitors stops, by which police contrive some purpose to drag individuals over merely on the hope that they’re going to uncover one thing they will arrest them for. 

“As wars go, this one is relatively easy; it’s simple and cheap, and for motorists, it’s not a fair fight,” wrote Vratil. “The war is basically a question of numbers: stop enough cars and you’re bound to discover drugs. And what’s the harm if a few constitutional rights are trampled along the way?” 

The thicket of site visitors and automobile tools rules, together with the flexibility for cops to drag drivers over for actions subjectively deemed “imprudent,” means anybody might be pulled over on a whim. 

“Even the most cautious driver would find it virtually impossible to drive for even a short distance without violating some traffic law,” writes University of Pittsburgh legislation professor David Harris, whom Vratil cited in her ruling. “A police officer willing to follow any driver for a few blocks would therefore always have probable cause to make a stop.”

With supplementary methods like standing very near automobiles and even inserting forearms inside, troopers carry out the “Kansas Two-Step” in a means that makes cheap drivers conclude they are not free to go away, the decide dominated (WDAF-TV)

Kansas state troopers disproportionately preyed on these with out-of-state license plates. “KHP troopers stopped 70 per cent more out-of-state drivers than would be expected if KHP troopers stopped in-state and out-of state drivers at the same rate…represent[ing] roughly 50,000 traffic stops,” wrote Vratil.

She discovered the KHP has been violating tenets set down by the 2016 case of Vasquez v Lewis, which rejected searches based mostly on flimsy pretexts akin to “status as a resident of Colorado.” Vratil mentioned troopers utilized “an absurd and tenuous combination of factors” to conclude that people had been suspicious, akin to: 

  • Having a automobile with out-of-state plates
  • “Seeming nervous while interacting with law enforcement”
  • “Having fingerprints on the trunk lid”
  • “Going on a trip with one’s nephew”
  • “Having a bag in the passenger seat”

Many fruitless automobile searches had been initiated by the use police canine, whose purported alerts are decided solely by their canine handlers. That’s problematic sufficient, however even real alerts are triggered by mere odors, not medicine per se. That means a canine may very properly alert just because somebody who smoked pot — perhaps a automobile mechanic or the earlier consumer of your rental automobile — touched your door deal with.  

In the approaching weeks, Judge Vratil, who was arrested in 2019 on suspicion of driving underneath the affect, will impose an injunction. Her ruling features a draft with provisions that will, amongst many different issues, require troopers to:

  • Communicate to drivers after they’ve reached the purpose the place the site visitors cease has concluded and they’re free to go 
  • Inform drivers of their proper to refuse or revoke search consent
  • Obtain supervisory approval earlier than commencing purportedly consensual searches
  • Maintain higher traffic-stop documentation and digital data

Plaintiffs within the the case, Shaw v Jones, are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. Yes, on uncommon event, the ACLU — which more and more throws its principles to the wind to please leftist donors — nonetheless manages to sometimes do some good.   


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