Police enforce laws with random searches at Zapote

Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo
Fuerza Pública officer checks the pockets of one young man at the Zapote fairgrounds

Fuerza Pública officers are continuing their policy of random searches as a security measure at the Zapote fairgrounds.

The searches almost always target young men. The activities at the fair ground are an extension of what police officers do daily on the streets of the Central Valley.

The security ministry said Thursday that 32 persons had been detained at the Fiestas de San José carnival since Christmas, mostly as a result of searches. Four of those persons were suspected fugitives, including one facing a sexual abuse allegation and another for failing to pay child support, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Raúl Rivera Bonilla, the San José regional police director, was quoted as saying that police officers were checking persons who were entering and leaving the fairgrounds.

As a result of the searches and other police activities, officers confiscated four knives, small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and crack, they reported.

Some 14 of the persons detained face drug allegations and three face allegations of crimes against property, officers said.

Fuerza Pública officers have the right to ask anyone for identification. Frequently the encounter also becomes a search of backpacks and pockets. Most expats in San José have seen two or more police causing a young man to empty his pockets for inspection. Even A.M. Costa Rica employees have undergone this treatment downtown.

There does not seem to be any probable cause for the searches except that the individual stopped by police officers is young, male and dressed informally.

These stops are not to be confused with efforts by police to shakedown individuals. In the past, police officers, mostly in the evening hours, would stop expats and search them with the goal of either taking money or exacting a bribe.

These clearly illegal practices appear to have been ended by a number of arrests of San José-based police officers, including some of the higher ups.

Out on the highways, Fuerza Pública officers maintain checkpoints where they routinely search cars and trucks.

One such checkpoint is in southern Costa Rica where such searches have turned up smuggled drugs. Police officials defend these actions and even have secured favorable rulings by the courts

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