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Opinion Editorial
Badge bullies are at it again

In conjunction with a recent truck inspection blitz at the Cascade Locks Port of Entry, the Oregon State Patrol collected 465 "supposedly" voluntary and anonymous urine samples from drivers. These samples will be analyzed with the results used and reported to the media as an indication of what percentage of drivers may be using illegal drugs.

Similar checks have been done before. Should they be doing this? There is no requirement in state or federal law, for a driver (or any other citizen of the United States) to provide urine samples to cops without probable cause to believe an individual is doing something illegal. This is one of the fundamental issues on which this country was founded at the conclusion of a bloody and bitter war.

You have to wonder how "voluntary" any request can really be when the person making the request is in uniform and carrying a weapon. You might expect this kind of treatment of people in countries where the citizens usually whisper among themselves because individual rights have long ago been abandoned, but in America? Does the flag still fly over the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Now many in government (and elsewhere) will say, "If you have nothing to hide, why would you object?" Every right-thinking person should object loudly and fiercely because the principle of freedom to be free from government searches is fundamental to our nation. It is what America is all about. If you have nothing to hide, you have every right to know you will not be subjected to government shakedowns.

The real question is, what makes government employees at any level believe they have the authority or the gall to ask any citizen of the United States to forego their constitutional rights for any reason? The very idea that such a request would come from a government employee means they lack the required integrity to work in public service.

No government agency has the authority to take from you what is constitutionally guaranteed, nor does any citizen have the authority to give away someone else's individual rights.

Constitutional protections are not taken away, they are given away, a little at a time because, too often, we don't just say "no" to the ever-reaching hand of government. We should.

Despite what they may claim, the state has no noble motives for this effort. Because the tests are anonymous, there can be no enforcement action taken even if they identified serious drug users with the tests. If any of the drivers that passed through the port appeared to be under the influence, they were arrested because "probable cause" existed. There were 11 of those arrests. When Oregon cops did this previously, the news media reported that a specific percentage of truckdrivers operated trucks while on drugs, even though any researcher will tell you that a voluntary sample is not representative of the general population of any group. Are Oregon officials likely to say their test results do not reflect all truckers? Of course not. The only reason the state cops would have in doing these kinds of checks is to help build a case for mandatory roadside urine testing of truckdrivers. They're in the enforcement business.

Would such a program make highways safer? It might, if such tests were able to tell whether a truckdriver was adequately trained and had the necessary skills, experience, and attitude needed to assume the safe operation of the vehicle. But of course, drug tests cannot measure those things and we've got a driver shortage, so let's don't talk about required training, experience, or attitude. Obviously, these issues are less important.

And what about the people who drive cars? Aren't they on the order of 15 to 20 times more likely to be impaired by drugs or alcohol? Let's not talk about them either. These are truck cops that are told repeatedly who the target is.

How many more indignities do people think drivers can endure? Many drivers work nearly twice as many hours as other workers for what are sometimes sweatshop wages. They're gone from home and families on a regular basis spending top dollar for everything they have to buy. Many shippers and receivers have treated drivers like dirt for so long, they can't imagine this person driving a truck is really a fellow human being. Many drivers can't even find a safe place to park to rest without paying or being ticketed or run out of the parking area.

On a different note, it's just been a few months since various state employees and lawmakers were throwing a hissy fit because they claimed truckers were leaving bottles filled with urine in the rest areas. The state legislature even passed a law making it a crime. Heck, it might have been a whole lot simpler to have posted signs telling truckers to drop pee bottles at the closest port.