ROCKLAND — Rockland’s mayor has expressed concerns about the checkpoints that the Knox County Sheriff’s Office will be conducting this year, asking whether they are related to the federal immigration crackdown.

However, the sheriff’s office chief deputy said that the public safety traffic stops are nothing new and have nothing to do with immigration.

“I was dismayed to read in the paper, the plans of the Knox County Sheriff’s Department to hold police checkpoints over the coming months, stopping all traffic and checking drivers’ and occupants’ papers,” Mayor Valli Geiger said Thursday in an email to Knox County Commission Chair Carol Maines.

Geiger said she already had heard from several concerned citizens, asking for information, explanations and to express their concerns. The sheriff’s office issued a news release Tuesday about the planned traffic stops.

“In this very fraught time of fear, distrust of police, particularly by people of color, this seems like a very bad idea. It also raises questions concerning the real purpose of these stops? Is this an attempt to identify, harass and detain immigrants? If immigrants are found during these checkpoints, what then? Will we be separating any children from their parents and where will we be putting them?” Geiger asked.

Rockland’s mayor questioned whether there had been a directive for the county to hold such roadblocks.

“Any kind of roadblock, where everyone is stopped, presents opportunity for things to go wrong between police with weapons, citizens with and without weapons and frightened people. It is also a hardship on the working poor, who will be caught up in this with discovery of lapsed inspections, registration, marijuana in the car, outstanding tickets etc. etc. etc.,” Geiger said.

Knox County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Tim Carroll, who is unopposed in his bid to succeed Sheriff Donna Dennison in November, said the roadblocks were nothing new and had been done for decades.

He said the department would not inquire about the immigration status of people in the vehicles.

“I am confident in the level of trust that the people of Knox County have of all the local law enforcement in Knox County. I ask that people not interject their own language and interpretation into a statement made by us concerning the safety of the people of Knox County. It’s an honor to live and be a part of this beautiful piece of Maine and we want everyone to continue to be able to enjoy it and be safe doing it,” Carroll said.

He said officers would look at the inspection sticker, registration tags and license plates as cars arrived at the checkpoints. The drivers will be asked if they have been drinking and if everyone in the car is safe. He said if there were no violations, the vehicle would immediately be allowed to continue.

If there are violations, the driver will be asked to pull over to the side of the road and additional information will be sought. Carroll said sometimes officers will ask for the names of passengers, only to check if they have any outstanding arrest warrants. He said immigration status will not be asked.

Maines, a former Rockland mayor, said she has no problems with the traffic stops as outlined by the chief deputy.

Maines, a former defense attorney, agreed that traffic laws do tend to have an inordinate impact on the poor.

“Many people are just hanging on,” Maines said, which would explain why a vehicle may not be inspected.

Carroll said the roadblocks are constitutional, citing a May 2017 ruling by Maine Superior Court Justice Bruce Mallonee.

The Rockland City Council will be voting Monday evening July 9, on a resolve to ask the federal government to reunite parents and children who were stopped crossing the Mexico border. The resolve seeks to end the separation of families at the border-crossing with Mexico.

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