PASADENA, CA — An annual New Year’s tradition, along with the crippling fear of terrorism, is giving police in Pasadena the excuse they need to perform hundreds of warrantless vehicle searches.
Police State USA obtained a tip from a reader notifying of the signs being posted near the route of the upcoming Rose Parade — an annual parade held on New Year’s Day in Pasadena. The parade draws crowds of hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country. Hundreds of recreational vehicles gather along the parade route and in nearby parking lots in the week preceding the parade.
The sign in the photograph sent to Police State USA reads:
DEC. 29 THRU JAN. 1
FOR SECURITY PURPOSES ALL VEHICLES PARKED IN THIS AREA ARE SUBJECT TO INSPECTION AND SEARCH BY PASADENA PD. NON-COMPLIANCE MAY RESULT IN CITATION AND TOW AT OWNER’S EXPENSE.
Pasadena Police have been treating the Rose Parade like a terrorist target since 9/11, and have annually employed a program they dub “Parade Watch.” A police document from 2002 discusses the program and some of its tactics. Discussing the vehicle searches, Pasadena PD published, “One of the simplest responses would have been to post ‘No Parking’ signs along the cross streets of the route, however, such a response was inconsistent with the goals and the tradition of the Rose Parade.”
So instead of No Parking, police have instituted a policy of Parking Only If You’ve Been Searched. Originally they recognized their legal limitations for searching cars without consent, and were very successful at coercing people into allowing searches. In the first year, the department boasted that only 2 vehicles initially refused out of 700 RVs approached, but were both eventually coerced by police into allowing searches. They accomplished this by employing plainclothes workers to perform the searches instead of police officers who were already assigned throughout the parade route. The department published in 2002, “The concept was that using civilian volunteers wearing tee shirts with the patriotic United We Stand logo on it and visible police volunteer credentials may be viewed as less threatening to recreational vehicle owners than police.”
“It is community policing practiced in one of Pasadena’s finest moments, and we believe that it is a critical component in the safety and security of the parade route,” said Police Chief Phillip Sanchez in 2010, after explaining that all vehicles parked within a block of the parade route are subject to being searched.
In previous years, those who willingly give up their 4th Amendment rights were rewarded with a patriotic “United We Stand” sticker for their windshield. Inspectors also logged the “names, vehicles, and demographic information” of all the subjects they searched. Inspectors were instructed to report anyone who looks “suspicious” and to alert police to anyone who refused to let the inspector into their vehicle.
The signs cite Pasadena Municipal Code 10.40.170, which was passed as a reactionary response to acts of terrorism in 2002. The city attorney’s document specifically cited attacks on the World Trade Center and the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City as reasons the ordinance was needed. According to the code, “Parking on city streets and city parking lots may be conditioned on voluntary search of vehicles prior to entering or at any time after entering and parking on the city streets and city parking lots posted with such conditional parking restrictions.”
Effectively, constitutional protections are void on streets owned by the taxpayers if the police chief declares it so.
Police published the following excerpt from a survey participant who attended a previous year’s Rose Parade. The New Jersey resident wrote a glowing review of the police searches and was very pleased with how quickly he was approached by police and searched. It read:
Within 1/2 hour of arriving at an on-street parking space, we were visited by two men representing the police department. They were very courteous, asked us several questions (including whether we would allow them to inspect our RV), and provided us with a sticker to place in our front windshield.
“If you see something, say something,” the parade attendees are repeatedly told — including cars parked without a sticker in the windshield indicating that it had been searched.
As the signs posted for the 2014 Rose Parade make boldly clear, those who don’t consent to searches will be given citations and their vehicles towed away.
Parades can be logistical nightmares and police certainly have their hands full in coordinating them. However, the 4th amendment demands that people be protected from unreasonable searches. The government of Pasadena has no rightful authority to restrict public streets and public parking lots to only those who have waived their rights. So long as parking is available on public streets, it should be open to all in a non-discriminating way. As Pasadena police have acknowledged in the past, the other alternative is to put up “No Parking” signs, as if that will keep anyone safe from a committed terrorist.
The whole thing is a farce, actually. Consider how easily a terrorist could overcome this policy. Couldn’t the stickers be faked? Couldn’t a sticker be stolen, or passed on from one vehicle to another? What about if a driver allowed a search, got his sticker, then drove elsewhere to load his RV up with dangerous material? What kind of terror requires a valid parking space, anyway? Does any thinking person actually believe that these stickers and inspections are preventing a terrorist attack?
All of this absurdity is effectively doing is condition the 99.999999% of people who are not terrorists to comply with constant government searches and harassment. No real terrorist would be deterred or hindered by the searches in any way. Like the bumbling TSA, the program amounts to a bunch of “security theater,” nothing more. It makes naive people feel safer, but amounts to nothing but an illusion of safety.
The department has published its number on the signs. Feel free to give them your feedback at the sources posted in the section below.
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What kind of terror requires a valid parking space? Tell the department that their sticker policy and warrantless searches are intrusive and doing nothing to promote safety.