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Florida state troopers pull over motorists to fill out a survey.
July 30, 2002 1:43 PM   Subscribe

Florida state troopers pull over motorists to fill out a survey. "Off-duty troopers picked motorists at random and directed them to pull off the interstate into a rest stop, where Palm Pilot- toting interviewers waited." Shit, I'd be pissed. Yeah - it's only a 90 second survey but still... (from Camworld)
posted by ao4047 (32 comments total)

 
How about just surveying people who stop at the rest area for a rest? Not enough people in the right amount of time? Pay the interviewers less, say 15 bucks an hour and get 2xs as much time to survey.

I love the survey itself, high speed train! I hate the execution of it. weak.
posted by tomplus2 at 1:49 PM on July 30, 2002


deceptive signage, deliberate interference with the private citizenry, arrogant claim that no matter how repugnant, it is legal - christ you'd think bush was governor there.
posted by quonsar at 1:55 PM on July 30, 2002


I would probably be so relieved that I wasn't in any trouble that I'd happily take the survey.

Wouldn't it be cheaper & more effective to mail out surveys to folks' houses? Or even to (gasp!) call them at their homes? Even telemarketing is less intrusive than freaking a person out by pulling them over to a rest stop. I can't help but think that there must be a better way.
posted by catfood at 1:57 PM on July 30, 2002


isn't this misappropriation of power? The article mentioned that the police have the right to 'pull people over for information' or something like that. Well, this is an enourmous stretch!! 'Information' in that case would mean legal information, such as 'have you seen a red Taurus with license PD-SUX?' And I thought telemarketers were bad....at least they don't have any power.
posted by LuxFX at 1:58 PM on July 30, 2002


I say more power to the train, after the Kyoto debacle, the least the American people can do is answer a stupid little survey about a high speed electric train.
posted by ( .)(. ) at 1:58 PM on July 30, 2002


So if I get pulled over in Florida, I can just say "I don't want to take your survey, Officer" and be on my merry way?
posted by dr_dank at 1:58 PM on July 30, 2002


The reason that telemarketing or mailing surveys won't work in this case is that the survey is asking about a train that would replace or supplement the highway on which these drivers were driving. To get accurate results, you either pull people over or you photograph everybody's license plates and then get their mailing information from the DMV. I'm not sure which is more intrusive.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:03 PM on July 30, 2002


The same sort of thing is happening in the area of PA I'm in. State troopers pulling over motorists for a survey. =/
posted by Darke at 2:05 PM on July 30, 2002


monju, come on. You ask if a person takes highway X, and then you ask if they would take a train instead, and you cross-tab the results. You don't think this is done all the time?

This is outrageous, illegal and inconsiderate. And I sound like Jackie Chiles.
posted by luser at 2:08 PM on July 30, 2002


An outside agency paying off-duty cops to wear what appear to be their official uniforms and pull people off a public highway to take a survey is legal? What happens this Wednesday when people refuse to pull over, now that they know what it's all about? Are these off-duty cops going to chase them down and arrest them? Shoot at them?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:09 PM on July 30, 2002


How about just surveying people who stop at the rest area for a rest?

How many daily commuters use a rest area?

The reason that telemarketing or mailing surveys won't work in this case is that the survey is asking about a train that would replace or supplement the highway on which these drivers were driving.

Yah. Probably they could do a large random digit dialling sample, with a screener question of "Do you commute using I-4" or some such, but your response rates get pretty low.

This is outrageous, illegal and inconsiderate.

If the article is to be trusted, it is legal. Not that that has anything to do with outrageous or inconsiderate.

It's an interesting dilemma. The method they chose probably gets the best (most accurate, fewest chances for response bias from nonrespondents) results, but the cost ($ and public reaction) seems significant.
posted by claxton6 at 2:12 PM on July 30, 2002


Luser, I agree that this is outrageous and inconsiderate. I'm not sure this is illegal, however. Further, cross-tabbing telephone survey results isn't as effective, because if they're monitoring traffic as well, then they can get flow rates, as well as the time at which each commuter who fills out the survey uses the highway. That results in more information about the change a train can be expected to make on highway traffic at different times of the day.

However, this kind of information can also be gleaned less intrusively if you've got a clever consulting firm doing the polling combined with a good highway department that tracks flow rates and such.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:15 PM on July 30, 2002


Also, I wonder if they run the plates of the cars they pull over, just to see if they can get some easy arrests?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:16 PM on July 30, 2002


monju_bosatsu, so what if its difficult to do something? That isn't an excuse to break the law, especially by uniformed police officers. I have no sympathy for your 'surveys are hard' rhetoric. This is a country without compulsory voting and supposedly 4th amendment protections. I hope someone gets into serious trouble for all this, but then again this is chinatown, err Florida.

Here's hope for a class-action suit. I can almost hear the whining from the 'overlawyered' crowd now.
posted by skallas at 2:35 PM on July 30, 2002


Wow, this is incredibly asinine. First off, the high-speed rail ballot measure was a boondoggle. It basically asked if people were in favor of such a concept. A majority said yes. Now ask them again if they are willing to pay for it. Then the answer becomes decidedly murky. This deceptive method of surveying does not help the matter. If this happened to me, I would be incensed.

From the article: You don't have to stop traffic, but you get a very large negative reaction...

I would hope they would get nothing less.
posted by piskycritter at 2:58 PM on July 30, 2002


Even if it could be argued effectively that the survey is legal and that this is the most effective way to get ahold of the proper demographic (both of which I doubt), it seems to me that the method is bound to skew the responses. If this happened to me, I would probably be so annoyed that I would give bogus answers just to thwart the mechanism that had inconvenienced me. That may not be the right reaction, but I think a lot of people are likely to have it, and that in itself would make the whole thing a waste of time.
posted by bingo at 3:04 PM on July 30, 2002


I think what bugs me most about this was the use of the road signs that implied there was roadwork ahead, and then they pulled people off for a survey.

You know, you really don't have much of a choice about pulling over if a uniformed officer tells you too. You have to pull over ... I'm pretty sure that is a law. So they had to pull over. Sure, they didn't have to take the survey, but still ... imagine the heart attack inducing panic that people who weren't doing anything wrong get when they get pulled over by the cops.

And whether it was legal or not? You know, you can find a lawyer to argue that anything is legal if you look hard enough.
posted by Orb at 3:18 PM on July 30, 2002


Besides the fact that these were uniformed (but remember, off-duty) state troopers, what is wrong about this? Nothing, right? If Orlando "Make 7, Up Yours" Jones is out there in the middle of the highway it's dangerous, it's inconvenient, but it's ok.

And I, for one, think that getting a high speed rail line is a great way to spend our money. And this is probably clouding my judgement in this "polling incident".

So the question before us is, is this an abuse of power? And I think it's not. First off, it's not every car. It's random. Then, saying you do get "inconvenienced" by being selected, you can always say "no thanks" and be on your way. No one was "pulled over" remember, just shunted off the road into the parking lot of the rest stop, and then handed the palm pilot. It seems like a weird thing to me, but not necessarily a bad thing.

We have random stops for DUIs, and this has been upheld as within the fourth amendment. I don't necessarily agree, and, yeah, the penalty on us as a society is greater in that case versus the "how much money do you make?" questions. But it's no different in legal character, that's for sure.
posted by zpousman at 3:21 PM on July 30, 2002


zpousman --- you're missing the point. The SCOTUS ruling on the DUI checkpoints was based on minimal interference in the name of public safety -- the checkpoints where actually in furtherance of police mandate (preventing/stopping crime, enhancing public safety). I can't see any compelling public safety or crime related issue here.

If they'd simply wanted to survery commuters on the highway, why not use DOT employees in bright orange vests instead of off duty cops who aren't discernable from on-duty cops? They wanted to coerce people into stopping for a survey, and the police powers were used to achieve this goal.
posted by nathan_teske at 3:33 PM on July 30, 2002


zpousman: If Orlando "Make 7, Up Yours" Jones is out there in the middle of the highway it's dangerous, it's inconvenient, but it's ok.

You're apparently referring to the commercials where Jones is standing in the middle of the street with a 7-Up dispensing machine. Isn't is obvious to you that if he really did this, outside of a commercial set on which all the drivers are stunt drivers, this activity would be completely illegal? "Causing a public disturbance" and "selling without a permit in a non-commercial zone" would be just the tip of the iceberg.

We have random stops for DUIs, and this has been upheld as within the fourth amendment...it's no different in legal character, that's for sure.

You really think so? Random stops for DUIs happen in order to preserve public safety and catch criminals. That's what the police are ostensibly there to do; it's something they would be doing anyway if they had evidence that a particular driver was DUI. This is a completely different situation; not only do the police not have any evidence against the drivers in question, they're pulling people over who they know ahead of time haven't committed a crime. And the law that compels people to pull over for police officers is on the books so that the police can enforce the law. If they're not acting as police in any capacity except that they have the uniform and the flashing lights, they're essentially private citizens interfering with other citizens going about their daily routine. What if one of those drivers is late for work? And what if one of them refused to stop...that would be illegal, wouldn't it? Wouldn't the officers then have the right, the obligation in fact, to pursue the driver, and arrest him or at least issue a citation? If so, then the drivers are legally obligated to stop in this case. And if not, then the whole meaning of the flashing lights and the sirens gets diminished. Isn't it ridiculous to contemplate a scenario when you're driving, and a cop behind you signals you to pull over, and you say to yourself "Hrm, he probably just wants me to fill out a survey; I think I'll keep going." And aren't some future drivers who don't stop for police likely to use that as a defense?
posted by bingo at 3:41 PM on July 30, 2002


Here is a link to the Florida's High Speed Rail [warning: inane flash splash screen]. Here is a guy you can try complaining to if you think this is a dumb idea.

Also, after poking around, I found this:

Troopers Stop Halting Drivers To Take Survey

So I guess I am not the only one who found this to be a dumb idea.
posted by piskycritter at 3:43 PM on July 30, 2002


We had the same thing happen here in rural Texas where they're considering either expanding the tollway all the way out here, or putting light rail in.

But, out here, they chose the only big road in or out of 3 towns and blocked all the lanes, forcing everyone into a single line where they had to take a form, which we were supposed to fill out and mail back.
posted by dejah420 at 4:14 PM on July 30, 2002


ok, here's a question:

can an off-duty police officer who pulls vehicles off the road be charged with impersonating a police officer??
posted by LuxFX at 4:54 PM on July 30, 2002


Bingo says: If they're not acting as police in any capacity except that they have the uniform and the flashing lights, they're essentially private citizens interfering with other citizens going about their daily routine. What if one of those drivers is late for work? And what if one of them refused to stop...that would be illegal, wouldn't it? Wouldn't the officers then have the right, the obligation in fact, to pursue the driver, and arrest him or at least issue a citation? If so, then the drivers are legally obligated to stop in this case. And if not, then the whole meaning of the flashing lights and the sirens gets diminished.

There aren't any flashing lights.

That's a mischaracterization of what happened (at least from the article -- I wasn't there. The acompaning photo supports my reading of the article -- certain cars are diverted using highway cones, cops stand around and wave with their little airport traffic cone-tipped flashlights No sirens. No chase scenes. No "pulling over").

Nathan_teske is right. They should have used DOT employees. This would have been a better way to do it -- more honest and less "big brother".

Bingo - bingo on the Orlando Jones comment. It was a joke. There is no safe way for people that aren't in retro- reflective vests and know what they're doing to be in the middle of the road. That's why the consultants picked off-duty state troopers.
posted by zpousman at 4:58 PM on July 30, 2002


Troopers Stop Halting Drivers To Take Survey

I'm glad to see that this has all come to a stop. I have to drive from Tampa to Lakeland on Wednesday morning and I was not looking forward to this possible survey stop. As far as what I would have said on the survey, I would have said NO to the whole train idea. I don't see how this would/could be anything but a huge money pit for Florida residents. We are all hit with enough taxes and fees and everything else, I don't want any more.
posted by CJB at 5:02 PM on July 30, 2002


I've fallen into these cop-managed "surveys" in BC/Alberta a couple of times. And I've told them, no, I'm not participating, and driven off. While the cops can force you to pull over, they can't force you to answer questions, and can't keep you there for no good reason.

At least, not in Canada. In the USA these days, you'd probably be jailed as a terrorist.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:43 PM on July 30, 2002


If the article is to be trusted, it is legal. Not that that has anything to do with outrageous or inconsiderate.

No, if the article is to be trusted, a SINGLE LAWYER for the Florida Department of Transportation thinks this is legal.

I once worked for the legal office of the FDOT. Some of their lawyers are very sharp. Some of them are about as sharp as a sack of wet mice. So the question of whether or not this is legal really isn't resolved.

As Orb said: You know, you can find a lawyer to argue that anything is legal if you look hard enough.
posted by mikewas at 8:23 PM on July 30, 2002


They should have posted a sign: "We Pay You to Take a 90-Second Survey" and let people decide.

But I like this, and not only because I favor public transportation to private transportation. (If I were king, you would not drive to work if you worked in a city.) They are helping Floridians make sure their billions are being spent properly. If everyone says they would not take the train, maybe they won't build it at all.
posted by pracowity at 2:07 AM on July 31, 2002


If everyone says they would not take the train, maybe the won't build it at all.

They'll still be stuck building it. Having a high-speed rail is part of every Floridian's right as granted by the state constitution.

Yep, the same election that caused that little fracas over the President last fall also ushered in an amendment to Florida's constitution giving Floridians a high-speed rail.
posted by ahughey at 9:16 AM on July 31, 2002


I didn't think it was possible for me to have less respect for law enforcement than I already did. After reading this article, now I most certainly do.

Why did they stop this practice, I wonder? Can you say "multi-million dollar police harassment lawsuit"?
posted by mark13 at 10:45 AM on July 31, 2002


I was actually pulled over during my commute home from Lakeland to Tampa. The questions were tricky and at the end they asked how much money I made a year?!?!

It was really a bit much. Evidently other commuters were getting pissed off as I received a comment on my beautiful blouse, nice teeth, and cute haircut... all in the 10 minutes the girl with the Palm was surveying me.
posted by bmxGirl at 12:14 PM on July 31, 2002


I voted for the high-speed rail amendment. It was a hilarious end-run around the state government that's comparable to an unfunded mandate from Washington. The wording didn't detail the cost; it just said Florida has to build one if we vote for it. And we did.

The announcement from Florida's DOT site contains this quote: "Patrol Director Col. Christopher Knight refused to authorize troopers to participate in the survey, which has become the focus of angry letters to Gov. Jeb Bush and howls about constitutional violations on conservative talk shows from Tampa to Texas."

I don't get to say this often: Thank you, conservative talk shows! I can't believe anyone is in favor of the state using uniformed police officers to pull people over for surveys. The ability of the police to get people to follow orders obediently is a powerful thing. If it becomes routinely misused by government for reasons unrelated to public safety, people will be less likely to obey police.
posted by rcade at 12:14 PM on July 31, 2002


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