By Abigael Jaymes, Zoe Brown, KCTV5 News
KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -- The ACLU of greater Kansas City and Kansas has filed a lawsuit against the Kansas Highway Patrol saying they are targeting out-of-state drivers, especially those coming from Colorado.
The lawsuit challenges a specific practice that they say infringes on your constitutional rights.
According to the lawsuit, the KHP has designated I-70 as a known drug trafficking corridor. It states officers have been trained to stop motorists coming from Colorado due to the state’s legalized marijuana. It also states two-thirds of the motorists were either drivers of color or they had passengers of color in the vehicle.
According to the lawsuit, 93% of the KHP’s traffic stops in 2017 involved cars with out-of-state plates.
KCTV5 spoke with motorists Karl and Mamia Brown after noticing their car had Colorado plates. Both said they are familiar with the lawsuit, but they don’t agree with it.
“I don’t think they’re targeting people from Colorado,” they said. “I don’t think they’re just targeting black people. I just think the police is trying to stop the drugs that’s trying to come in and out of Colorado. That’s what they’re doing.”
We also spoke with Lauren Bonds with the ACLU.
“Even though they had very different approaches with their troopers, they had the exact same thing happen to them, which was a request for consent to search the car,” she said. “When that was denied, the canine search happened.”
She’s describing the so-called “Kansas Two Step”. Essentially, a trooper stops a vehicle with out-of-state plates under the pretense of a traffic violation, issues a ticket, and then turns around and takes a couple steps away. Then, they turn back and ask the driver to agree to answer additional questions.
“If the driver says, ‘No,’ then they ask, ‘Oh, can I search your car?’” Bonds explained. “If the driver doesn’t get consent to search, that’s when they’re detained for a drug dog.”
“Refusing consent to search is not a basis for a drug dog search,” she said. “It’s not a reason a cop can call for a drug dog.”
However, some motorists find no issue with it.
“I mean, if I’m doing something illegal, I’d be upset about it,” one driver said. “If you’re not doing anything illegal, then why not? They have to do their job.”
Bonds said this type of policing is a direct violation of the 4th Amendment. “In particular, if you’re holding someone for a canine search if there’s no evidence that they’re engaged in criminal activity or engaged in any drug trafficking or drug use, solely because of their residence or their travel plans,” she added.
Bonds said there needs to be a way for police to stop drug trafficking while also protecting motorists’ rights.
“We think that’s something that can easily be accomplished just by better training and better practices and policies,” she said.
We did reach out to the KHP. They declined to make a statement because of the pending litigation.