A private firm with a federal contract – and backed up by city police – forced motorists off Laurel Street and into a private parking lot Friday to question them about their driving habits and ask for a swab of their mouth.
“I feel this incident is a gross abuse of power on many levels,\” Reading resident Ricardo Nieves, one of those stopped, told City Council Monday.
He said federal and local tax dollars were being used to stop innocent people without probable cause, and allow a private company to hire uniformed police to force citizens to listen to their questions.
He said he wasn’t told what the swab was for, but added, “Clearly it was for DNA.”
The checkpoint was among several being carried out in Pennsylvania by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, hired by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
City Police Chief William M. Heim said the two federal agencies are trying to see what can be done about crashes and injuries, and the swabs were not to get DNA samples but to test for the presence of prescription drugs.
The checkpoint was supposed to be voluntary, but Nieves said he had to refuse several times over a five-minute period before the woman taking the survey let him go.
Read the full article: Motorist checkpoint in Reading draws questions.