Police are not allowed to use checkpoints to search motorists and their vehicles for drugs. So, in Mayfield Heights, officers are trying the next-best thing -- fake drug checkpoints.
Police gathered in the express lanes of Interstate 271 on Monday after placing signs along the freeway warning motorists that a drug checkpoint lay ahead.
There was no checkpoint, only police waiting for motorists to react suspiciously after seeing the signs.
On Monday, Mayfield Heights police placed a series of signs along the northbound I-271 express lanes that said: "Drug Checkpoint Ahead," "Police K9 Dog In Use" and "Be Prepared to Stop." Officers then watched how motorists reacted after seeing the signs.
Vitantonio said there were arrests and drugs seized. He said Thursday that four people were stopped and searched. Three of the motorists crossed through the grassy median or at emergency vehicle crossings, evasive actions that gave police reasonable suspicion to stop those cars.
Peters, 53, said he was driving on I-271 around 11:30 a.m. when he missed the merge that would take him into the local lanes and allow him to exit at Wilson Mills Road. He said he pulled over to check his phone for directions. As he pulled back onto the freeway, he said his phone disconnected from the charger, so he returned to the berm to reconnect it.
After stopping and returning to the freeway, Peters said he saw a sign that said, "Be Prepared to Stop," which prompted him to slow a bit. Seconds later, a police car was behind him, lights flashing.
Peters said the officer asked if he was having car trouble. Peters explained why he had stopped on the berm and then slowed down. He said the officer quizzed him about what kinds of drugs he had in the car, saying it would be much easier to confess before other officers and a drug-sniffing dog arrived. Peters insisted he had no drugs. As promised, other officers and the dog were summoned.
Ric Simmons, a law professor at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, said police are allowed to deceive people, thus the fake checkpoint was legal.
"They can lie to anybody," Simmons said.