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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Aldermen claim car searches during tailgating are unconstitutional

City officials claim residents should have access to Breese Terrace prior to football games without being searched.

Immediately following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the University of Wisconsin Police Department began conducting searches of all vehicles entering Breese Terrace during home games, which some aldermen suggest is unconstitutional.

According to Ryan Mulcahy, assistant to Mayor Sue Bauman, these searches are in direct relation to extra safety precautions in reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks and their one-year anniversary.

Until last week, gatherings at places such as Camp Randall were considered a Code Yellow — a moderate security level.

Since last week, the Department for Homeland Security has upped the security issue to a Code Orange, the second-highest alert status.

“We are currently on a Code Orange, which is almost an alert, and it is required of local enforcement that such a perimeter be established around venues such as Camp Randall,” Mulcahy said.

The police officers conducting the searches are looking for anything that might be used as an explosive in a vehicle.

“We are at a heightened national threat level,” Lieutenant Glenn Miller of the UWPD said. “We were using canine searches at the yellow level, and at the orange we are continuing with the dogs. Any large, open-air event is a potential target [for terrorism.]”

Still, police said spectators, as well as residents who live near Camp Randall, have little to worry about.

“We haven’t detected anything causing extra concern,” Mulcahy said. “At the stage-orange alert, we conduct new procedures to ensure public and homeowner safety.”

However, not all Madison officials agree with the searches, saying that when police dogs were not available to search a particular vehicle, at times police officers have searched the interior of the vehicle themselves.

Ald. Tom Powell, District 5, and Ald. Ken Golden, District 10, claim this is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

“[The UWPD] is crazy because they’re violating the Constitution,” Golden said. “They have no warrant, no probable cause, and they’re on a public street.”

And Powell agrees.

“We don’t mind searching the outside of a car, but we do mind searching the inside,” he said. “This is not UW property, and it is crossing a line of civil liberties — especially the Fourth Amendment. We are okay with setting up blockades and requesting an ID when coming into [the neighborhood.] Also, an exterior search is okay. But it is that extra step that is overstepping bounds.”

Powell said he and other city officials would contact the Wisconsin Chapter of the Civil Liberties Union for help in the matter.

Miller said police have been using nothing but canine searches for the past year, and they take about one minute to complete. All searches are consensual, and if a resident or spectator does not wish to comply, they are allowed to park on other streets.

Powell said during last Saturday’s football game, any car entering Breese Terrace from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. was searched, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., residents had no access to their homes.

“This is a hysterical reaction to terrorism,” Powell said. “If terrorists want to have a success, they’re going have a success. They’d be more likely to crop dust the place with anthrax or dive a plane into the crowd. They’d best deliver a bomb by running a small airplane over the stadium, not by trying to breach security at Breese Terrace.”

Golden said police searching cars as part of heightened security measures is unnecessary.

“Ashcroft put out a Code Orange, so now everyone has to have their cars sniffed by dogs,” Golden said. “Obviously, Breese Terrace residents are going to come in and bomb their own homes because they hate the university so much.”

Powell said the searches are out of the UWPD’s jurisdiction, since they occur on city property without express permission of the city. However, he also asserted the Madison Police Department does not have the authority to make such a decision.

Larry Kamholtz, public information office for the Madison Police Department, declined to comment on the issue.

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