The chief describes the checkpoints as a "non conventional, but legal investigative approach" that amounts to only a small portion of a larger initiative to curtail gang activity.
"There's basic constitutional issues involved, obviously the Fourth Amendment," he said.
"That certainly raises that alarm that what they're doing could be unconstitutional," STCRP lawyer Joseph Martin said. "Police have always been pressing against Nike Flyknit Racer Dark Grey/Black/Blue Glow/Pink Foil
restrictions the Constitution puts on protecting rights of individuals."
Ray Reyes, who lives across from Sorensen Elementary, said officers told them it was a driver's license checkpoint, but hadn't mentioned they were targeting gang members.
"This is kind of not normal; all these cops, especially like undercover and then to have the mobile command center," Reyes said, adding he appreciated the police presence, but he would like them to respond to calls faster.
The criminal element such as the Texas Chicano Brotherhood that rivals the older Tri City Bombers gang, the Po'Boys and the Vallucos has long plagued the Pharr, San Juan and Alamo area.
Martin could not be reached for further comment about STCRP's meeting with the San Juan police chief by press time.
He said anyone stopped has the right to refuse being photographed. Though, in general, he said gang members are willing to self identify.
"We know what we're looking for," Gonzalez said. "We know what colors they wear. We know their behavior. We even know the vehicles."
"We're not Nike Flyknit Gloves targeting any innocent people here," he said.
Still, organizations like the South Texas Civil Rights Project, based in Alamo, have questioned whether the enforcement activity could potentially be a violation of the Fourth Amendment that keeps people free from unreasonable search and seizure.
Additionally, it can be a slippery slope that leads to profiling, particularly based on race, he said. A public citizen is often hard pressed to deny the request of a police officer, even if inclusion in the database is voluntary, he added.
The San Juan police chief is adamant the checkpoints fall within the parameters of the law.
At a San Juan checkpoint, most cars attempting to pass through are stopped. Passengers are questioned and, in certain instances, individuals are asked by investigators to voluntarily submit to having photographs taken of their gang affiliated tattoos. The information is then vetted for inclusion in a state database.
San Juan gang checkpoints weigh civil rights
'WE KNOW WHAT WE'RE LOOKING FOR'
A few cars in, at 3rd Street and Maldonado Drive, a man self identified as a member of "La Eme," the notorious Mexican Mafia prison gang, police said. Officers on site asked him to remove his shirt so they could take photos of his tattoos.
October. They set up in the parking lot of Sorensen Elementary on Sam Houston Boulevard.
He said known gang members are arrested if they are in violation of any traffic laws, with the exception of speeding and an open container.
In Texas, police are prohibited from conducting roadblocks to check for drivers under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. However, city police sometimes perform checks for insurance, seatbelts and driver's licenses in places like Corpus Christi.
San Juan police, along with Hidalgo County Precinct 2 constables and narcotics canines, set up their operation following a drive by shooting near the intersection of Seventh Street and King Road during a Thursday night in October this year.
Nearby residents gathered, curious as to what was going on.
"They're limited. They're not infringement upon anything," he said. "We cannot do general Nike Flyknit Metallic Women's
Police went out again in December on a Friday night to an area where they believe a family was shot at by gang members in Flyknit Racer Nz
In San Juan, the purpose of the checkpoints is two fold: checking for those types of violations and gathering intelligence to enter into the state's GangScope database.
"I can tell you 99 percent of the people we stop, they actually tell us they're with whatever gang," Gonzalez said.
Martin said a checkpoint with the purpose detecting criminal activity is unconstitutional, problematic in the case of the gang checkpoints because they focus on gang membership.
For more than a year, San Juan Police Chief Juan Gonzalez said his department has conducted checkpoints at certain locations in direct response to crimes investigators believe are gang related.
Gonzalez said the initiative has been evaluated by the city's legal department and police take steps to plan the checkpoints well in advance using their own intelligence.
STCRP lawyer Joe Martin said police enforcement activity often pushes against civil rights, calling it "a constant pressure people need to be aware of."
On face value, he said he doubted the constitutionality of the checkpoints and photographing people for inclusion in the GangScope database. He also said the STCRP encourages anyone affected by these checkpoints to contact the organization.
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