Miami Police Stages "Random Shows of Force"

They actually think this is a good idea:

Miami police announced Monday they will stage random shows of force at hotels, banks and other public places to keep terrorists guessing and remind people to be vigilant.

Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez said officers might, for example, surround a bank building, check the IDs of everyone going in and out and hand out leaflets about terror threats.

“This is an in-your-face type of strategy. It’s letting the terrorists know we are out there,” Fernandez said.

The operations will keep terrorists off guard, Fernandez said. He said al-Qaida and other terrorist groups plot attacks by putting places under surveillance and watching for flaws and patterns in security.

Boy, is this one a mess. How does “in-your-face” affect getting the people on your side? What happens if someone refuses to show an ID? What good is demanding an ID in the first place? And if I were writing a movie plot, I would plan my terrorist attack for a different part of town when the police were out playing pretend.

The response from the ACLU of Florida is puzzling, though. Let’s hope he just didn’t understand what was being planned.

EDITED TO ADD (11/29): This article is in error.

EDITED TO ADD (11/30): more info.

Posted on November 29, 2005 at 1:07 PM52 Comments


Zwack November 29, 2005 1:39 PM

As I posted in the other thread when this was mentioned…

Actually, that might be quite effective if it is truly random, and they stop everyone. But… then you’ll get people like me who will say. “Yes, I have ID. No, you can’t see it.” I’m quite willing to identify myself, but I refuse to be searched without a warrant, and I don’t have to show them any ID. And if they are stopping everyone from coming out of a building then they are going to have problems.

That potentially has both first and fourth amendment implications. The first amendment states that I have the right “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” I can’t do that if they won’t let me out of the building without being searched or showing ID.

Having to show ID is a breach of the fourth amendment. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Unless there is a warrant then they don’t have to see my ID.


Eggy November 29, 2005 2:02 PM

They did something similar in the subways when I lived in France a few years ago — they may still do it. Since young men of a certain age all had obligatory military service to fulfill, they had quite a few people in the military, and periodically they’d pull a bunch of them out with guns and uniforms and walk them around subway stations. It may just be my natural paranoia, but it bothered me quite a lot to have so many apparently heavily armed soldiers marching around me. Rumors in common circulation that their weapons couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn weren’t helpful.

Mo November 29, 2005 2:09 PM

The Miami police are notorious for their “anti-terrorist” activities. I guess there haven’t been enough protest marches lately for them to get their jollies, so they’ll have to go after the general population. Wonder how 71 year olds without ID will like being held for 11 hours and refused water?

Stine November 29, 2005 2:33 PM

@ Zwack

The SCOTUS has already ruled that if an officer stops you and asks for ID, you must show him any identification you have.

I guess your best bet is to have none on you at any time unless you need it for a specific purpose if you’re worried about privacy matters.

Eric K. November 29, 2005 2:33 PM

I might just show up in Miami and sit around waiting for a “random show of force” then have conveniently left my wallet in my car in some parking lot nearby.

Americans are NOT required to carry identification papers in order to move freely about our country.

If I fail to carry identification or refuse to show it if asked, how can I possibly be committing a crime in any decent facsimile of a free country?

Adam November 29, 2005 2:41 PM

Is there a huge terrorist problem in Miami?

I bet more people were killed in car crashes in Miami last year then by terrorist.

I fact I bet more people have died in car crashes in Miami then by terrorist attacks in the last 100 years.

WAIT what if a terrorist was driving that car… ouch I think I hurt my head. 😛

Stu Savory November 29, 2005 2:43 PM

Errrmmm, who is this FOR?

What if there are no terrorists there? Within 100 miles? within the USA?

Surely they are only pissing off the electorate? A secret plan to get the Bush fambly out, maybe??

Lyger November 29, 2005 2:53 PM

One would think that there is a slightly less, well… random way to demonstrate to the public and the broader audience that the Miami Police Department is on the ball, and seriously taking steps to deal with the threat of terrorism. The police making random shows of force in a country where there is a fair amount of distrust of government in general and the police in particular seems guaranteed to bring out that segment of the population with a bone to pick, and challenge them to a fight.

Privacy and freedoms aside, it just seems like grandstanding. And there is, in this culture, a certain level of buy-in to the idea that people grandstand because otherwise you’d forget who they were, what they were doing, or why you should care. I realize that just having the police be more engaged with the community, and more responsive to the needs of the citizens takes time, but it almost always produces a better result.

But perhaps this is a symptom of the police themselves buying into a common misperception – that the job of a police officer is to be an active guardian of society. Realistically speaking, it’s hard to prevent any crime that’s not happening where you are, and right at that moment, if you wait until someone does something to start treating them as guilty of the offense.

mpd November 29, 2005 3:03 PM

@ Adam

“What should the Miami PD Do?”

Simple, come up with a better idea. Or at least come up with better rhetoric.

“We want people to feel they can go about their normal course of business…”
My normal course of business does not involve being randomly ID’d by cops. Or having my bank surrounded by police for no reason.

David November 29, 2005 3:04 PM

Funny that it’s “Miami” considering that most of the hotels (think South Beach or Key Biscayne) aren’t in “Miami”, but the City of Miami Beach, or the City of Key Biscayne or even Miami-Dade County (different jurisdictions). There are some here (Mandarin Oriental, et al.), but most arn’t in the City of Miami.

Miami Herald hasn’t picked up on this yet, come to think about it.

Pat Cahalan November 29, 2005 3:12 PM

@ Adam

Eat donuts? Joking aside, that would certainly be more likely to produce a random security benefit, since donut shops are held up much more frequently than terrorists blow up buildings.

This smacks of a giant malformed CYA. If the Miami police don’t come up with some public show of “doing something”, and then a terrorist attack occurs, people will say, “Why didn’t you do anything beforehand!” Since there is actually very little a single police department can do to prevent a terrorist incident, they’re making things up.

Harrold November 29, 2005 3:13 PM

So we are to believe that the cops are on top of things by randomly pissing on poor Americans?

If they were ON THE BALL, they’d jump on terrorists and plotters, not regular Joes and Jills and Juans and Juanitas.

mpd November 29, 2005 3:23 PM

From what I’ve read, the Hibel case doesn’t mean a cop can randomly stop me for no reason and ask me to show ID. (The police involved were investigating an assault case.)

Unfortunately, it does imply that any cop acting under the umbrella of “fighting terrorism” can most definately do it. (At least in Nevada.)

Les November 29, 2005 3:32 PM

@ chipgeek et al. (IANAL)

I just read through that case law and the way I read it is that Mr. Hiibel was required to identify his name under Nevada law (and every other state assuming the statute exists). So, if he had just said “My name is Joe…” the situation could have been different and he would not have been legally detained. However, I did watch the video and if he had stayed calm, I believe the outcome of the situation would have been completely different.

Joseph November 29, 2005 3:43 PM

@ chipgeek

“However, I did watch the video and if he had stayed calm, I believe the outcome of the situation would have been completely different.”

I agree that the best advice is to stay calm. However, that advice also scares me to no end. If I don’t stay calm, should I automatically be arrested? Or surveilled? Or shot in the head by a london police officer?

gbrown November 29, 2005 3:49 PM


No. 03-5554


542 U.S. 177; 124 S. Ct. 2451; 159 L. Ed. 2d 292; 2004 U.S. LEXIS 4385; 72 U.S.L.W. 4509

This case does not authorize random stops and demands for identification. This decision of the Supreme Court depends on a specific set of facts reasonably requiring police investigation.

Bob November 29, 2005 4:10 PM

This reminds me of the Russians stopping people to check their papers to make sure there ID was in order.

Wasn’t this one of the reasons we thought Communism was oppressive? Some of the new laws and practices going into effect in America are starting to remind me of behavior we were told was oppressive in the USSR.

To me this practice by the Miami police is uncalled for, and should be unconstitional. If they want people to feel safer then they should do something that show results – we prevented 50 illegals from entering the United States from Cuba, or we will provide training to civilians on what to do in case of a terrorist attack.

What is starting to happen in this country under the guise of “fighting terrorism” is getting scary.

ShockandAwe November 29, 2005 4:15 PM

Wow, it’s too early for April Fools, but this article is so laughable, it must be.

“‘People are definitely going to notice it,’ Fernandez said. ‘We want that shock. We want that awe. But at the same time, we don’t want people to feel their rights are being threatened.'”

Shock and Awe? Ya, that’ll get the citizens on their side. Oh sure, people won’t be threatened by uniformed and plain close officers randomly stopping them to ask for papers/ID. If they actually go forward with this “plan”, I suspect (and can only hope) these Gestapo-like tactics will backfire on them, big-time.

Adam November 29, 2005 4:32 PM

The future:
Government will no longer stop people to check ID

The technology is not far away to track everyone at ALL times.
They wont need to ID you because the system will know who you are already.
Sats, video cameras, CC swipes, GPS in your car, GPS in your phone, etc will all tie back into a system that will mark EVERYONE and track where they go in real time.
The system wouldn’t need to be too accurate just knowing this group of people are at the mall and that group of people are in their car would be enough to find to out the out of place people.
It will all be done in a non-intrusive way so it will avoid the constitution.

FOR INSTANCE, this group of men flew in from overseas 3 months ago. They live in an apartment together. They don’t goto jobs everyday. They drive a car past important infrastructure once a week. These circumstances would trigger an alarm and someone would go investigate.

The sat or perhaps a ballon over a city would watch all the people on the ground and track were they go. Bank robbery downtown? Goto the logs and find out who was there.

Shura November 29, 2005 5:16 PM

People never cease to amaze me. Why do they think that anything they can do will deter people who’re not afraid to literally blow themselves to pieces and end their lives?

Not to mention that the 9/11 terrorists had valid IDs, of course (IIRC, anyway), do they honestly think that someone’s gonna say “darn, I’m not gonna blow myself up now because I might have to show my ID” now?

bitter cynic November 29, 2005 5:30 PM

A good guess is this is just a racket, the cops ripping off the overtime budget. It is the overtime (plus ‘tips’ and windfalls?) that let a cop have an above-median real income.

Roger November 29, 2005 6:14 PM

The above quoted story was wrong. The AP have already published a corrected version, which can be found here:
Apparently, what the police chief actually said was they would NOT be doing things like randomly checking IDs, and it was that comment which the ACLU agreed with.

Apparently Miami police have been told that Al Quaeda has considered Miami as a terrorist target, however as they have no specific information there isn’t anything specific they can do, so they are going to be doing a lot of foot patrols and training officers to look out for “hinky” behaviour.

Since doing a lot of foot patrols and looking out for hinky behaviour is generally an effective strategy against many types of crime, and something most citizens think the cops don’t do enough of, I’m all in favour of this. I’d just add that it works best if they talk to folks whilst patrolling and get to know the people they are serving.

“Why do they think that anything they can do will deter people who’re not afraid to literally blow themselves to pieces and end their lives?”

Because studies, mainly by the Israelis, show that actually quite a few things ARE significant deterrents to suicide bombers. In fact since suicide bombing is theologically quite dubious under Islam, it’s actually quite hard for the recruiters to get their “martyrs” to go through with it.

Fred F. November 29, 2005 6:15 PM

Adam, more like, these men all share a cultural background and have been living in the country for more than 3 years. They do have jobs and even families. They meet on weekends to watch the game and play poker. They and their families took vacations which put them on planes. They seem to share a common liking for flying and are getting their pilot licenses together. Not much that is illegal, and if you were trying to investigate all of the different possible variations of people that are doing things not out of the ordinary then you may need a LOT more police than we have now just to track them.

It seems silly really.

Michael November 29, 2005 7:13 PM

@Lyger & Stine

From the EPIC summary of the Hiibel case, ( ‘The Supreme Court issued its opinion on […] holding that Nev. Rev. Stat. § 171.123(3) is constitutional under both the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion noted, however, “[a]s we understand it, the statute does not require a suspect to give the officer a driver’s license or any other document. Provided that the suspect either states his name or communicates it to the office by other means — a choice, we assume, that the suspect may make — the statute is satisfied and no violation occurs’

you don’t have to show ID but you must identify yourself.

J.J. Jingleheimer Schmidt November 29, 2005 7:30 PM

Refusal to present ID sparks test of rights

Arvada woman said ‘no’ at Federal Center while on public bus

By Karen Abbott, Rocky Mountain News
November 29, 2005

Federal prosecutors are reviewing whether to pursue charges against an Arvada woman who refused to show identification to federal police while riding an RTD bus through the Federal Center in Lakewood.

Deborah Davis, 50, was ticketed for two petty offenses Sept. 26 by officers who commonly board the RTD bus as it passes through the Federal Center and ask passengers for identification.


What makes this case so outrageous is that the same officer who told her the day before that she must carry ID, asks for that ID the next day and arrests her for not having it. It’s not like he didn’t know who she was. He knew. She rides the same bus every day. He checks the IDs every day. He knows her. She just didn’t produce an ID when requested. An ID that would prove nothing.

jnf November 29, 2005 9:02 PM

FYI to all, in certain places, i.e. arizona, particularly this type of cowboy rhetoric has not only lived, but thrived. Additionally, there is a state law on the books which requires all peoples over 18 to have an id on them at all times.. its a jailable offense, I know I found out a few years back when I mistakenly found myself on the top of a government owned parking garage taking photo’s of the frigging skyline :/

Jojo November 29, 2005 10:23 PM

United States vs. Deborah Davis

Next Stop: Big Brother

Meet Deborah Davis. She’s a 50 year-old mother of four who lives and works in Denver, Colorado. Her kids are all grown-up: her middle son is a soldier fighting in Iraq. She leads an ordinary, middle class life. You probably never would have heard of Deb Davis if it weren’t for her belief in the U.S. Constitution.

One morning in late September 2005, Deb was riding the public bus to work. She was minding her own business, reading a book and planning for work, when a security guard got on this public bus and demanded that every passenger show their ID. Deb, having done nothing wrong, declined. The guard called in federal cops, and she was arrested and charged with federal criminal misdemeanors after refusing to show ID on demand.

On the 9th of December 2005, Deborah Davis will be arraigned in U.S. District Court in a case that will determine whether Deb and the rest of us live in a free society, or in a country where we must show “papers” whenever a cop demands them.

Get the facts…

Ryan November 30, 2005 2:14 AM

Easy solution…
Keep a miniature copy of the US constitution with the part about search and seizure highlighted. When they ask for your ID, just give them that instead.

Of course, you will probably get hauled off for a few weeks since we don’t need to charge anyone with an actual crime anymore, but that’s another story.

not-so-says-vlad November 30, 2005 2:15 AM

Where do bombers seem to often wind up blowing themselves up at? At checkpoints, or when spotted by authorities. That which might stop or deter a would-be suicide bomber wouldn’t be the crowd of people that may exist on account of delays caused by random checks and searches – or just from pedestrian ‘rubber necking’. The spectacle of such a show of force may itself become a viable target.

Perhaps the discovery and/or disruption of terrorist activities before-the-fact seems the only safe and effective method of preventing attacks. I’m sure this planned endeavor in FL is well intentioned, but seems to be in practice a show… period (and a potentially dangerous one at that). FL and Miami local law enforcement might perhaps better spend their time training public sector and private sector security personnel (such as those working in buildings, malls, hotels, banks, etc) in first aid and crisis management.

It isn’t as ‘showy’, but doing so will provide a far greater benefit to the public in the event of an attack (or a more likely event, such as a natural disaster, a disgruntled employee or teenagers who stopped taking their meds showing up, etc).

Anonymous November 30, 2005 5:09 AM

@Adam: “Is there a huge terrorist problem in Miami?”

Yes, there is. But the problem, is that the anti-terrorist forces are currently in jail for espionage. See the cases of Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, René González Sehwerert, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González Llort and Antonio Guerro Rodríguez.

ARL November 30, 2005 7:01 AM

Well you can’t listen to the press and get anything useful from them. Also don’t forget that that Miami is the most “left” city in Florida so heavy handed police actions are not uncommon there.

As for random showing of force, it may not be a bad idea if they don’t act poorly otherwise. Many smaller actions could be detered if targets security profiles were randomly improved.

piglet November 30, 2005 11:50 AM

That ID-check-in-the-bus puzzles me. The article states: “RTD spokesman Scott Reed said federal guards only check IDs of bus passengers when the Federal Center is on “heightened alert,” which may not be known to the general public.” Now, what happens to a passenger who simply doesn’t carry papers with him? There is no requirement in the US to carry papers. By the way, if this Center is a high security zone, they shouldn’t let public buses drive through.

Ed T. November 30, 2005 6:03 PM

Wow — so, if my son is stopped, and is asked to show his ID, since he does not have any (gov’t issued photo) ID, what happens then?


Peter November 30, 2005 11:52 PM

I currently live in Denver, and have taken the buses out of Cold Spring Park and Ride (which is adjacent to the Federal Center). 5 bus routes go THROUGH the federal center as part of their regular route. Every single time I’ve take a bus through the federal center (usually a 5X), a guard gets on, and asks everyone to hold up their ID. Without removing the ID from my wallet, I just hold up the opened walllet and the guard “inspects” it from about 20 feet away. No check for validity, no “remove it from your wallet” like a real police officer would ask. No scanning it. Stuff that a night club bouncer would confiscate would pass the “inspections” that go on at that federal center.

When the center is on “heightened alert” then they close the gate to the Park and Ride and make the buses divert around the facility.
Click System Maps.
Click the square labeled Lakewood
There you go.

As for Miami-Dade terrorists, all the ones I’ve ever heard about (I also lived in South Florida for 12 years) were Cuban refugees who were busy killing and terrorizing the other Cuban refugees who “didn’t condemn Fidel Castro enough.”

Keith December 1, 2005 7:02 AM


If you live in Denver, you’ll no doubt be aware of your fellow bus-passenger Debbie Davis who decided not to show ID:

As a UK citizen, it fascinates me how in the name of security our countries are installing oppressive regimes, slowly becoming akin with the former Soviet -style regimes we opposed, but with better technology.

kev December 1, 2005 10:26 AM

I don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

If you are not a wanted criminal, terrorist, and have nothing to hide – why would you refuse to show ID?

Frank January 16, 2006 7:58 AM

Papers please!

is there some secret terrorist code of conduct that states terrorists must not carry photo ID with them at any time?

on a recent visit to the states i was refused entry to a public building as i didnt have photo id on me. it didnt seem to cross anyone’s mind that had i intended to blow up the building that i would kind of obviously have brought some.

Good luck with the burgeoning police state. what a marvellous idea it is to get the public trained for subservience by staging theatrical “shows of force”. I’m sure whoever thought of that is laughing all the way to Room 101.

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