Rockland mayor voices concerns about county roadblocks

By Stephen Betts | Jul 05, 2018

Rockland — Rockland's mayor is expressing concerns about the roadblocks that the Knox County Sheriff's Office will be conducting this year, asking whether they are related to the federal immigration crackdown.

The chief deputy of the Sheriff's Office said, however, that the public safety traffic stops are nothing new and have nothing to do with immigration.

"I was dismayed to read in the paper, the plans of the Knox County Sheriff’s Department to hold police checkpoints over the coming months, stopping all traffic and checking drivers’ and occupants’ papers," Mayor Valli Geiger said Thursday, July 5, in an email to Knox County Commission Chair Carol Maines.

Geiger said she had already heard from several concerned citizens, asking for information, explanations and to express their concerns. The Sheriff's Office issued a news release July 3 about the planned traffic stops.

"In this very fraught time of fear, distrust of police, particularly by people of color, this seems like a very bad idea. It also raises questions concerning the real purpose of these stops? Is this an attempt to identify, harass and detain immigrants? If immigrants are found during these check points, what then? Will we be separating any children from their parents and where will we be putting them?" Geiger asked.

Rockland's mayor questioned whether there had been a directive for the county to hold such roadblocks. "Any kind of roadblock, where everyone is stopped, presents opportunity for things to go wrong between police with weapons, citizens with and without weapons and frightened people. It is also a hardship on the working poor, who will be caught up in this with discovery of lapsed inspections, registration, marijuana in the car, outstanding tickets etc. etc. etc.," Geiger said.

Knox County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Tim Carroll, who is unopposed in his bid to succeed Sheriff Donna Dennison in November, said the roadblocks were nothing new and had been done for decades.

He said the department would not inquire about the immigration status of people in the vehicles.

"I am confident in the level of trust that the people of Knox County have of all the local law enforcement in Knox County. I ask that people not interject their own language and interpretation into a statement made by us concerning the safety of the people of Knox County.  It's an honor to live and be a part of this beautiful piece of Maine and we want everyone to continue to be able to enjoy it and be safe doing it," Carroll said.

He said officers would look at the inspection sticker, registration tags and license plates as cars arrived at the checkpoints. The drivers will be asked if they have been drinking and if everyone in the car is safe. He said if there were no violations, the vehicle would immediately be allowed to continue.

If there are violations, the driver will be asked to pull over to the side of the road and additional information will be sought. The chief deputy said sometimes officers will ask for the names of passengers, only to check if they have any outstanding arrest warrants for them. He said immigration status will not be asked.

Maines, a former Rockland mayor, said she has no problems with the traffic stops as outlined by the chief deputy. A former defense attorney, Maines agreed that traffic laws do tend to have an inordinate impact on the poor.

"Many people are just hanging on," Maines said, which would explain why a vehicle may not be inspected.

Carroll said the roadblocks are constitutional. He cited a May 2017 ruling by Maine Superior Court Justice Bruce Mallonee upholding such roadblocks. A motorist had challenged her being charged with driving under the influence based on her being stopped at an August 2016 roadblock. The judge said there was nothing constitutionally impermissible about the county's roadblock.

The Rockland City Council will be voting Monday evening July 9, on a resolve to ask the federal government to reunite parents and children who were stopped crossing the Mexico border, The resolve seeks to end the separation of families at the border-crossing with Mexico.

Rockland Mayor Valli Geiger (Photo by: Stephen Betts)
Comments (11)
Posted by: Valerie Wass | Jul 06, 2018 19:56

Why do people freak out and lose it because of Donald Trump?   I have no problem with road blocks in my county. If it helps one person who could die, it should be done. I do, however, have a problem with illegal people living here and taking jobs away from many who need one. I do have a major problem living in the United Stayes of America and having to read everything I purchase in spanish and it really galls me to have to press 1 for english on my phone!!!!!

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jul 06, 2018 08:58

In America we are fortunate to have many freedoms not available in other countries.  Most treasure these freedoms and are more than concerned when we see them being eroded.  Roadblocks are common in Iraq, Afghanistan, many middle eastern and African countries.  I would NOT want to live in a place where I can be systematically stopped and questioned by the police.  Valli is right to question this intrusion of our privacy and the Sheriff dept wrong for sugar coating.   Keep in mind the police are never going to tell you what they are really doing  and shame on you Carol Maines for supporting this invasion. You might sing a different tune if you were inside a jail cell.  Ben there done that, gives you a different perspective on life.

Posted by: Norman D Carver | Jul 06, 2018 08:57

These roadblocks have been ongoing for years and it all depends on  if  there is funding available above and beyond the regular budget items. it does go against the  idea of innocent until proven guilty concept, but then they throw in the driving being a privilege and not a right argument so that give the police the go ahead  to do whatever they think is a good idea. If they should catch someone in this country that entered illegally, then it is their sworn duty to uphold the law as it is the sworn duty of Rockland's mayor  to uphold the law. If she doesn't like that fact then she shouldn't be in that office. You don't get to pick and choose which laws you  enforce. That has been part of the problem coming out of DC for too many years!

Posted by: Penelope Ray | Jul 06, 2018 08:35

For me, the issue is not whether police have the right to do this, whether people should follow the law, and the value of public safety.  The issue when I read the article announcing the roadblocks was "Roadblocks in Rockland?"  Is this new?  I have no memory of seeing roadblocks set up in my community in the past 40 years.    And if this policy is new, "Why now?"   It is fact that there are recent efforts by ICE, that those efforts target area within 100 miles from the coast,  and that ICE has attempted to recruit local police departments in their efforts.   The wording of the recent announcement caused some confusion and made this action seem new and different rather than standard procedure from the past.   I appreciate this matter being clarified.


Posted by: REBECCA SCHNUR | Jul 06, 2018 06:53

When I was a little girl, one of the things that separated us from the Soviet Union was the fact that we were not stopped while going about our business by government officials and asked for our papers.  I find it ironic that the very people who have been railing against government intrusion are so accepting of this basic privacy violation.

Yes drivers have to produce a valid license, but PASSENGERS do not without probable cause.

Given the fact that bus riders and passengers have been stopped by government officials and had their citizenship questioned, I think the mayor’s concern is well placed. I am grateful she asked the question.

As the mother of a child of color who is a citizen, I am concerned that as she functions in this mostly white space, she will be marginalized because there are those who don’t think she looks “American” enough. Given the statements coming from Washington, Augusta and the behavior of law enforcement and other government enforcers elsewhere, it is a valid concern.

Those of you who are unconcerned should consider how your race affords you a pass. Other people, with just as much right to function in public space do not have that luxury.  Please try to put yourself in their shoes.

Posted by: Ian Emmott | Jul 06, 2018 06:10

She’s giving Rockland a bad name my continuing to inject national politics in tune with the media narrative of the day. I remember her sexual harassment accusations during the height of that me too movement. Just turn on CNN today to see what she does next.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Jul 06, 2018 04:19

Good post Mr Charlton. Mayor Geiger needs to worry more about the borders of Rockland instead of creating problems we don't have. Driving is a privilege not a right and if you don't want to be stopped at a road check then stay home.

Posted by: Valli Genevieve Geiger | Jul 05, 2018 17:43

I want to just comment on this story. I did not release this letter to the press. I wrote to Rockland’s representative Commissioner to the county, which oversees the Sheriff’s department to ask for added information, clarification and to express my concerns.

I cc’d this letter to fellow members of council in the interest of transparency, as no councilor has any more power or authority than any other. I also thought one of them may have been contacted by Rockland citizens as I was. It is unfortunate that someone decided to make my letter to a Commissioner the news story.

There have been recent articles about Border Patrol establishing check points on I-95 in Northern Maine and today, an article in the Bangor Daily news about Border Patrol stopping Canadian fisherman. The announcement concerning check points by the Knox County Sheriff’s Offce was released in that environment. I questioned whether this was the time for unnecessary encounters between law enforcement and the public, given  the heightened anxiety and tension over the immigration/asylum issues playing out right now.

At the end of the day, I want our law enforcement officers to do their jobs and come home safe to their families. I want people of color to feel safe in our community and I don’t want families seeking asylum to be separated from their children.

I was reassured that this planned program, is no different than in previous years, though the announcement was phrased quite differently. I am in full support of making sure impaired drivers are off the roads. I do think it is a time that requires heightened caution and sensitivity so there are no misunderstandings between an officer stopping a car and a driver and passengers being stopped.



Valli Geiger

Mayor of Rockland

Posted by: Edwin E Ecker | Jul 05, 2018 16:31

Suck it up BUTTER CUP !

Posted by: Lawrence Edward Galkowski | Jul 05, 2018 14:39

no objection to following the law. object to being stopped with no probable cause

Posted by: Sam Charlton | Jul 05, 2018 14:28

Mayor Geiger part of responsible auto ownership and driving is to obey the laws by maintaining current registration, insurance, inspection, driver's license and observing sober/non-impaired driving standards. Unfortunately not everyone abides by the laws. I am surprised that you are concerned with those drivers who chose to disobey. This is not a question of poor vs. rich, but of choices. I expect that a Maine registered vehicle and it's driver are following these standards, because otherwise they cause a danger and financial risk to all drivers and pedestrians.

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