‘The KHP waged war’: Federal judge orders end of Kansas trooper ‘two-step’ maneuver

Ruling declares Highway Patrol practices violate Fourth Amendment rights

by Rachel Mipro, Kansas Reflector
July 21, 2023

TOPEKA — The Kansas Highway Patrol has been ordered to stop its infamous “two-step” technique by a federal judge, in what the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas calls a “huge win” for all motorists using state highways.

The U.S. district court ruled KHP’s policies and practices violate the Fourth Amendment, releasing a Friday opinion that the KHP “has waged war on motorists — especially out-of-state residents traveling between Colorado and Missouri on federal highway I-70 in Kansas.”

The trial challenged the constitutionality of the KHP’s policy of targeting out-of-staters and other “suspicious” people for vehicle searches by drug-sniffing dogs, along with the “Kansas two-step” maneuver. The “ two-step” is a technique taught to KHP personnel, in which they end a routine traffic stop and begin a separate effort to dig for information and gain entry to a vehicle to search for contraband.

The opinion said the KHP’s actions weren’t  “a fair fight.” KHP spokespeople couldn’t be reached for comment on the situation.

“The war is basically a question of numbers: stop enough cars and you’re bound to discover drugs,” the opinion added.

The court case came after Blain Shaw, an Oklahoma City resident, was pulled over near Hays while on his way to visit family and friends in Denver with his brother. He was stopped for speeding on Interstate 70 by Kansas Highway Patrol trooper Doug Schulte, who reported he clocked Shaw driving 91 mph in a 75 mph zone. Schulte ticketed Shaw and then walked away, before doubling back in a “trooper two-step” and returning to Shaw.

The trooper then asked Shaw and his brother if they were hauling anything illegal, such as firearms or narcotics. Shaw answered in the negative, but refused to grant permission to Schulte when he asked to search his van. The trooper then called in a K-9 unit to search Shaw’s vehicle.

Though troopers didn’t find evidence of drugs, the KHP required Shaw to report to a nearby law enforcement office so copies could be made of his medical records, Colorado identification card and medical marijuana registration.

The incident snowballed into a trial challenging the Kansas Highway Patrol’s policy, with legal defense arguing Schulte violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by searching Shaw’s vehicle.

Shaw and other plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Spencer Fane LLP, filed Shaw v. Jones in 2020 to challenge KHP’s practice of detaining motorists with out-of-state license plates and the “two-step” maneuver. The defendant in the case was Herman Jones, in his official capacity as KHP Superintendent.

The lawsuit was consolidated with a separate suit brought by Mark Erich and Shawna Maloney, who had their family’s RV ransacked by KHP troopers in 2018  in another “two-step” incident.

The ruling comes after two weeks of trials.

The court found Jones responsible for the practice of unlawfully detaining motorists in Kansas without reasonable suspicion or consent, especially those out of state, and decreed that the Kansas Two-Step violates the Fourth Amendment, extending traffic stops “without reasonable suspicion and without the motorists’ knowing, intelligent and voluntary consent.”

“This is a huge win — for our clients and for anyone else who travels on Kansas highways. We are gratified that the Court saw the ongoing harms of KHP’s unconstitutional practices and stepped in to stop the department’s widespread misconduct,” said Sharon Brett, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas.

“It also demonstrates that courts will not tolerate the cowboy mentality of policing that subjects our citizens to conditions of humiliation, degradation, and, in some tragic cases, violence.” Brett added.

Spokespeople from the governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to Reflector inquiries for comment.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttp://www.sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.


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