Police Point Guns At People At Massive I-270 Road Block

I understand that police are supposed to catch bad guys. And I understand that a society where bad guys get caught is safer than a society where they get away with crimes.

And, in this case, since the bad guys were caught without anyone being shot, one could say that the police did their job.

But their methods seem legally questionable and extremely dangerous to bystanders.

From the Washington Post: “Police halt Montgomery County commuters on I-270 to hunt for bank robbery suspects.”

Police arrested three bank robbery suspects in Montgomery County on Tuesday after officers set up a roadblock on Interstate 270 and walked car to car with pistols, shotguns and semiautomatic rifles drawn. The rapid show of force stunned late-morning commuters but allowed officers to nab the trio 44 minutes after the robbery.

“I guess it turned out well, so it’s hard to argue with success,” said Don Troop, who was heading to the District when traffic came to halt. A group of officers made its way to his car and other cars around him. “They were just walking along saying: ‘Pop the trunk! Pop the trunk!’”

It is not clear to me why they had the authority to stop literally everyone on the interstate and search their cars. I see nothing in the story that indicates they had reason to believe anyone was riding in the trunk of a car.

At 10:02 a.m., police said, officers were called to the Wells Fargo bank branch along King Farm Boulevard in Rockville. They learned that two men armed with handguns had come in, demanded money and left with it. They got into a silver Kia, where a third man was waiting, and drove off.

A short time later, the Kia was spotted on southbound I-270. Officers in cars raced toward the area and shut down traffic in both directions.

At the time, Troop was trying to get to the District, where he is a senior editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Just south of the Montrose Road exit, “everything came to a halt,” he said.

Again, nothing is said about anyone hiding in a trunk.

The Easy Bake Gun Club has a report with some pictures.

Traffic backed up for miles on the freeway for over an hour with no explanation from police. Commuters exiting their vehicles to see what was happened were met with hostility from police. As one woman leaned out of her vehicle to vomit she was yelled at by an officer to stay inside and close her door. I suppose she’s supposed to puke inside her car while they trample her rights.

During this encounter motorists were approached by armed officers and ordered at gunpoint to submit to warrantless searches of their vehicles.

That’s one way of looking at it. I guess if they can do it to Boston they can to it to drivers on an interstate.

I want to bring up another consideration. The robbers had one firearm in their vehicle but they surrendered without resistance. What if they had shot at police? Hopefully Maryland police are far more accurate than police in Los Angeles or New York City. But even if they are, by stopping and jamming all traffic on I-275, they had created a situation with many bystanders who could have been hurt or killed.

[B]y putting armed criminals into a miles long roadblock authorities made it more likely they would take someone hostage or commandeer an innocent bystanders vehicle. Some will say that the ends justify the means and as long as the robbers were arrested, the “operation was worth it”.

What, in the final analysis, happened? The robbers held up a bank and the cops held up an interstate full of traffic. Both pointed guns at innocent people to get what they wanted. In one case, they wanted someone else’s money. In the other case, they wanted to catch a criminal. I approve of the latter motive. But I don’t understand how pointing guns at people and putting them in danger can be considered a justifiable means for attaining the goal.