MONDAY: Trial challenging Kansas Highway Patrol’s Two-Step and unconstitutional detention practices
Multi-day bench trial beginning Monday, May 1
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 28, 2023
CONTACT: Esmie Tseng, Communications Director, [email protected]
KANSAS CITY, KAN. – On Monday, the ACLU of Kansas, together with law firm Spencer Fane LLP, will begin the final phase of a challenge to the Kansas Highway Patrol’s infamous “Two-Step” and practice of unlawfully detaining drivers without adequate reasonable suspicion.
“This is a crucial case – for our clients, but also for anyone else who travels on Kansas highways,” said Sharon Brett, Legal Director of the ACLU of Kansas. “This case addresses the Highway Patrol’s unconstitutional practices and widespread misconduct in violation of our most basic Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. For too long, the Highway Patrol has run roughshod over the rights of motorists traveling on Kansas highways. People should be free to travel through our state without the fear that they will be unlawfully shaken down based simply on the small fact that they are coming from or are going to states that have legalized drug use in some capacity.”
The bench trial for the claims against Superintendent Herman Jones is the final phase of Shaw v. Jones and begins Monday, May 1 at the Robert Dole Courthouse in Kansas City, Kansas in front of Judge Kathryn Vratil of the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. Two plaintiffs, Blaine Shaw and Joshua Bosire, had their individual damages claims heard in separate trials earlier this spring. In February, a jury found in favor of Blaine Shaw in his claims against Trooper Douglas Schulte, awarding nominal damages and finding that Schulte lacked reasonable suspicion and violated Mr. Shaw’s rights during a 2017 traffic stop. Thursday this week, another jury found that Trooper Brandon McMillan violated Joshua Bosire’s rights in a separate traffic stop in 2019, awarding Mr. Bosire both compensatory and punitive damages.
In the upcoming bench trial against Jones, both Mr. Shaw and Mr. Bosire, along with three other plaintiffs from consolidated cases, are asking the Court to enjoin the KHP’s unconstitutional conduct and prevent future drivers from being subjected to the Two-Step and unlawful roadside detentions.
Plaintiffs argue that KHP’s widespread unconstitutional practices have been allowed under Superintendent Herman Jones; that the harms of KHP’s practices are ongoing; and that KHP impermissibly relies on motorists’ travel plans in deciding to detain a person for a canine sniff. The plaintiffs pointed to KHP’s practice of using the “Kansas Two-Step"—where the trooper attempts to turn a traffic stop into a consensual encounter—as an especially egregious practice, where motorists do not feel free to leave and they end up detained without sufficient cause. Specifically, Plaintiffs argue that KHP continues to rely on a driver’s out of state license plates or travel plans to justify detaining that driver for a canine sniff—despite the Tenth Circuit’s holding in 2016 in Vasquez v. Lewis, which found that such criteria were not properly considered as part of reasonable suspicion.
The plaintiffs first brought the lawsuit in 2020. KHP training materials did not appear to integrate any Vasquez considerations for four years following the decision, instead appearing to add in Vasquez in 2020, only after the ACLU of Kansas brought the Shaw lawsuit. KHP also continues to train officers to use the Kansas Two-Step.
“This case gets to a critical conversation we’re having collectively in this country about policing. At its core, this case is about what it means for police to target certain people for intrusive questioning and suspicionless detention: to turn something minor, like a traffic violation, into a degrading and lengthy roadside detention, or something even worse,” said Brett. “When we give police the power to conduct pretextual stops, to assume people to be drug traffickers, and to use flimsy justifications to get inside their vehicles to prolong traffic stops, we turn a simple ticket-release scenario into something longer, fraught, and complicated – and in this shift, we are also creating the very conditions for police violence against community members, especially our minority neighbors. This case is an important component on the public’s continued desire to push back on this abuse of power, and we are hopeful for an impactful result.”
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About the ACLU of Kansas: The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, visit our website at www.aclukansas.org.