KS Troopers Forced To Abandon Their “Kansas Two-Step” Tourist Trap on Roadsides

mark reinstein / shutterstock.com
mark reinstein / shutterstock.com

State Troopers from Kansas have long been using a move they dubbed the “Kansas Two-Step” to keep out-of-state drivers on the side of the road for extended periods of time. A drawn-out process, it keeps officers on the roadside long enough for them to manufacture a reason to detain them and search their cars for illegal drugs.

Now, US District Judge Kathryn Vratil declared on July 21st that this practice was an egregious violation of the constitutional right against unlawful search and seizure. Furthermore, she ordered her willingness to make changes in the state’s policing tactics, and she will appoint a special auditor for a term of no less than four years to oversee the changes.

One of the first changes is the requirement of officers to inform people that they have the right to decline a search request and can revoke that permission to search at any time.

Previously under the “Two-Step” rules, they didn’t need to advise them of this right. Part of this previous process was to issue the citation they initially pulled the motorist over for and then stopped as they started to walk away to talk more to the driver. This allowed them time to look around on the ground for an excuse to search.

Vratil’s ruling took 79 pages and was in response to two separate lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Three drivers and two passengers who were traveling in 2017, 2018, and 2019 from Colorado to Kansas. From the evidence presented, Vratil was able to ascertain that the department was targeting Interstate 70, as well as to or from states with legal recreational or medicinal marijuana. Kansas is one of the few remaining states with neither option.

In her ruling, Vratil wrote, “The war is basically a question of numbers: stop enough cars, and you’re bound to discover drugs. And what’s the harm if a few constitutional rights are trampled along the way?”

Leading the charge against unlawful search and seizure is not easy, and she is giving officers a chance to have their opinions heard. All parties in the lawsuit will have until August 7th to write and explain in writing why she shouldn’t make these changes. With troopers facing the prospect of having to get a supervisor’s approval to conduct a search in the first place, they would also be forced to log when they asked for approval and who the approving officer was.

Given the preponderance of the evidence that the officers had been misleading motorists, her decision to make troopers inform motorists is huge. As she explained, she recognized the manipulation they were performing on drivers and how they made many afraid to leave when free to do so. In her ruling, their decision to mislead and take advantage of motorists who are ignorant of their rights was incredibly unlawful.

Ever since Colorado started legalizing marijuana, people of all backgrounds have been stopped frequently due to the ridiculous traffic laws in Kansas that give officers free rein to stop vehicles. Vratil also acknowledged that but also noted that the use of someone’s travel itinerary was something that was too ordinary and that it could, in turn, apply to thousands of people traveling the roads.

A ruling like this is likely to be challenged, and many officers are likely to worry about how this could impact their ability to do their job down the road. These officers are the ones who often are the root cause of the problems for every American. Part of the old “ticket quota” kind of officers believe no shift is complete without turning someone’s vehicle and potentially whole life upside down.

Given how much of this “Kansas Two-Step” is about marijuana, perhaps the state would be wise in starting the process for legalization, even if just for medicinal use. The state is already losing money on poor grain and crop production due to the weather. All that land could accommodate acres of marijuana growth, and with the dramatic shift in American feelings on the topic, now is the time to make the change and capitalize.