‘Plain-view doctrine’ and other checkpoint dos and don’ts for cops
The Northern Police District (NPD) has reminded police officers about the proper manner of treating motorists passing through the checkpoints set up for the election period.
Supt. Ferdinand del Rosario, NPD spokesperson and chief of the District Operations and Plans Division, said that while police officers manning checkpoints are required to be vigilant in search of illegal firearms or other contraband, they must also be mindful of the rights of motorists.
“First, police officers must treat motorists with courtesy,” Del Rosario said in an interview.
Speaking after a meeting with local election officials, Del Rosario also reminded officers of the so-called “plain view doctrine,” which basically states that policemen can only seize contraband or illegal firearms that they see up front with their naked eye.
“The police cannot order motorists to open their glove compartment or trunk or even the vehicle’s doors. However, if the tint of the vehicle’s windows is dark, the police can request motorists to roll down their windows. But motorists have the right to refuse this,” he added.
The NPD, in cooperation with Commission on Elections (Comelec) offices in the cities of Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela, has established at least one checkpoint in each of the cities.
The checkpoint, under the supervision of the city Comelec heads, should have a large sign indicating that it is a Comelec checkpoint and stating the name of the election officer supervising it.
However, the police, upon notifying Comelec, may set up additional “spot checkpoints” if they have information on the movement of crime suspects who must be intercepted.
Del Rosario said Comelec checkpoints in the NPD’s jurisdiction have yet to encounter persons carrying illegal firearms or other contraband.
The Comelec checkpoints are established mainly to enforce the election gun ban.
Del Rosario clarified that police officers are not exempted from the ban and that they can bring their guns out of their homes only when on duty and in proper uniform.