POSTED: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - 5:26pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - 5:42pm
Fort Worth, TX — Some North Texas drivers are upset after they were stopped at a police roadblock in Fort Worth Friday and directed into a parking lot, where they were asked by federal contractors for samples of their breath, saliva and even blood. It was part of a government research study aimed at determining the number of drunken or drug-impaired drivers, Scott Gordon reports.
Kim Cope was on her lunch break Friday driving north on Beach when she came across two police cars with lights flashing, "Yeah, they were about right in here."
She says the uniformed officers directed her into a parking lot, "I gestured to the guy in front that I just wanted to go straight, but he wouldn't let me and forced me into a parking spot."
Once parked, she says she couldn't believe what she was asked next, "They were asking for cheek swabs. They would pay you $10 cash for that. They would also, if you let them take your blood, they would pay you $50 for that."
Or at the very least, she says, they wanted to test her breath for alcohol, for free, "It just doesn't seem right that you would be forced off the road when you're not doing anything wrong."
She says she felt trapped, "I finally did the Breathalyzer test just because I thought that would be the easiest way to leave."
We asked Fort Worth and Haltom City police about this, the parking lot is on the border of both cities and each department told us they didn't know what we were talking about.
So who was doing such a survey and why? We tracked it down to the National Highway and Safety Administration.
The federal agency confirms they're doing this in 30 cities across the country, part of an $8 million dollar survey over three years to find out exactly how many drivers are drunk or on drugs.
The government insists 100 percent voluntary and anonymous.
"You can't just be pulled over randomly or for no reason."
Civil rights attorney Frank Colosi questions whether such stops are constitutional and then he says there's the fine print on the form given to drivers. It informs them their breath was tested when they first stopped by "passive alcohol sensor readings before the consent process has been completed."
Frank Colosi, Attorney, "They're essentially lying to you when they say it's completely voluntary, because they're testing you at that moment. It just doesn't seem right, it just doesn't seem right that they should be able to do any of it. If it's voluntary, it's voluntary, and again none of it felt voluntary at all."
Fort Worth police earlier said they could not immediately find any records of officer involvement but police spokesman Sgt. Kelly Peel said Tuesday that the department's traffic division coordinated with the NHTSA on the use of off-duty officers after the agency asked for help with the survey.
And here is a second apology that was issued on Wednesday from the Fort Worth Department to our citizens:
"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hired off-duty Fort Worth Police officers to assist with the Roadside Survey by providing traffic safety and security of cash used to pay survey participants. This survey was intended to be voluntary and was conducted by NHTSA personnel.
We are reviewing the approval process for this survey's utilization of FWPD off-duty officers not only to ensure that our policies and procedures were followed, but also to ensure that any off-duty job is in the absolute best interest of our citizens.
We realize this survey caused many of our citizens frustration and we apologize for our participation.
I agree with our citizens concerns and I apologize for our participation. Any future Federal survey of this nature, which jeopardizes the public's trust, will not be approved for the use of Fort Worth police."
Chief Jeffrey Halstead