A recent interaction between the public and the Camp Verde Marshal’s Office revealed an aspect to law enforcement few consider: Namely, that police are increasingly tasked with informing people via social media, sometimes countering the public’s perceptions with hard facts, humor and enthusiasm.
On June 15, CVMO posted on its Facebook page that a scheduled DUI checkpoint had been announced and then was canceled on June 28.
The checkpoint would have included saturation patrols and a sobriety test checkpoint along W. Finne Flat Road in Camp Verde from 6 p.m. Friday, June 30, until the “early morning hours” of the following day.
Such checkpoints, CVMO stated, are conducted with a zero tolerance policy to prevent deaths, injuries and property damage caused by alcohol and drug impaired drivers.
If Facebook interactions are anything to judge by, the rationale for informing the public beforehand about such preventative-measure checkpoints appears to be poorly understood: Within hours of the announcement, three people had questioned why CVMO would make a checkpoint’s time and location public.
“What are y’all thinking?” Facebook user Dina Walker asked. “What’s the purpose of advertising? Not a smart move if ya plan on catching anyone.”
CVMO stated: “There are lots of legal requirements when conducting a proper DUI checkpoint. CVMO and other local police departments do not make the laws that govern DUI checkpoints. We can only follow the rules set upon us from the federal government, supreme courts or other supervisory organizations.”
According to CVMO, the U.S. Supreme Court and National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration established specific rules regarding DUI checkpoints.
The NHTSA guidelines require that formal checkpoints are determined in advance by officials in coordination with law enforcement agencies, that they take place in a designated location and be widely announced to the public using media resources and signs visible to the public as they approach the checkpoint.
“Other rules are that the stops to be made in some sort of mathematical sequence, such as every car, every other car, third car and so on,” CVMO stated. “Again, these are not arbitrary rules that CVMO has picked to follow, but guidelines set upon us by our state and federal governing officials.”
Another Facebook user made a direct charge against the announcement, writing Facebook a oneword response to CVMO’s post: “Unconstitutional.”
“In short, the U.S. Supreme Court [Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, 1990] has ruled that DUI checkpoints are not a violation of citizens constitutional rights and ruled to leave the decision up to the individual states regarding if they are to be used,” CVMO stated. “In Arizona, they are legal and the state recognizes their constitutionality. Thank you for your interest!”
According to Camp Verde Marshal’s Office chief administrative assistant Darby Martin, “it’s not that often” that CVMO, usually through Martin herself or an on-duty sergeant, has to dispel negativity or falsehoods via Facebook users. CVMO retains the right to moderate and delete comments that cross a line, but rarely does so.
“I can’t think of any point, at this time, we’ve had to delete someone’s comment,” Martin said. “We believe in 100 percent transparency .... We want to be a part of the community. It’s a very small portion of our online community that [posts negative comments]. It’s generally very positive.”
Martin said sex offender notifications are the most likely posts to incite negative commentary on Facebook, prompting CVMO to “explain and defend” their lawfulness and purpose.
“That is the biggest controversy,” Martin said.
Making sure that DUI checkpoint notifications are publicized, however, is not an insignificant task, according to Martin. CVMO has been forced to provide proof, in court, that it had posted notice of a DUI checkpoint in accordance with the law.
According to Martin, the checkpoint scheduled for June 30 was canceled due to staffing concerns. CVMO, which has been providing support to efforts to quell the Goodwin Fire south of Prescott, felt that it could not operate the checkpoint properly with many personnel absent.