Posted on September 29, 2004

Oakland DUI Checks Back On

Heather MacDonald, Oakland Tribune, Sep. 28

OAKLAND — Mayor Jerry Brown on Monday ordered the on-again, off-again vehicle checkpoints back on track, calling the stoppage “a dumb idea.”

Oakland police officers will restart the roadblocks next week, despite complaints from the Latino community and City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale). The last checkpoint happened more than a month ago.

“The so-called moratorium is hereby terminated,” Brown said Monday. “The whole thing was a dumb idea.”

According to law enforcement officials, the checkpoints are an effective way to get drunken and unlicensed drivers off Oakland’s streets.

However, the roadblocks also swept up dozens of illegal immigrants without licenses or insurance, leaving many without transportation to get to work or the grocery store and causing hundreds of dollars in fines and fees.

“I wanted to make sure we were doing the checkpoints up in the hills and down in the flatlands,” De La Fuente said. “I wanted to make sure it was equitable.”

Brown said he ordered a review of the whole issue, and directed police Chief Richard L. Word to put together a full report.

“You don’t make policy in the bowels of the police department,” Brown said.

Word said the department stopped doing the checkpoints while new rules were developed in conjunction with the community and De La Fuente.

“I wouldn’t call it a moratorium,” Word said. “I would call it a rethinking.”

Councilmember Larry Reid (Elmhurst-East Oakland) praised the decision to resume the checkpoints. Last week, Reid said the police department’s failure to run the checkpoints was a threat to public safety.

“I want the law enforced across the board,” Reid said. “If you have no license, no insurance, and you get stopped, your car will be towed.”

Under the new guidelines, Oakland police will notify the public of the general area of the checkpoint, and set it up after the evening rush-hour commute. In addition, the roadblocks will be rotated throughout the city, Word said.

“To do more than that would defeat the purpose of the checkpoints,” Word said. “But we also need to be sensitive to the community.”

Word credited the checkpoints, funded with state grant money, for helping to reduce the number of fatal accidents in Oakland, down 22 percent this year from 2003. Five of the last six fatal accidents involved unlicensed drivers, he added.