If you ever need to establish control of what enters and leaves an area, maintain a presence or just simply want to intimidate someone, consider setting up a road checkpoint (CP). Doing it should be part of a well thought out plan, and not just something you do out of boredom or as a prank. Really.

Picking a place

Before you do anything, find out where you want your CP. What are you going to use it for? If it's meant to control vehicles and persons entering and leaving an otherwise controlled area, it should be thought of different than if you simply set it up on a straight on the highway. Will you deal with pedestrians? If so, how many? Consider an ambush patrol or a roaming guard in addition if you are setting up in a densely populated area.

If your CP is supposed to maintain a show of force, it will probably just sit on a road leading to no particular place. In this case, remember to pick a place with clear sight in both directions. This ensures you have visual control of traffic coming and going.

You want to intimidate someone with a road CP? That's black art and I will not tell you how to do that. Intimidating people with a CP means fucking around with their minds in addition to all the physical hindrances that go into things like this. If you ever need to do CP intimidation, you will invariably be dressed in a uniform, you will be armed with a rifle or a gun, and you will most likely have someone ranking you. They will know the intimidation part, and they will tell you how to go about it.

Or you could always ask an Israeli. They are known to be really good at that particular bit.

What you might need

How to set it all up

Okay. Now what?
This is where you should decide what things mentioned above you don't need. Controlling vehicles entering the parking lot for a sporting event does not call for any amount of barbed wire, even if Stevenage should make it to the FA Cup semi again.

A road
You will need this for obvious reasons. Avoid junctions at all costs.

A minimum of two persons
One person will stand in the middle of the CP stopping vehicles or just waving them on, while the other(s) will act as backup and operate any firearms, radio gear and try to rest.

Some surplus oil barrels
This is the hard part of setting up. Some of the oil barrels should be filled with concrete or sand, while other barrels should be empty. The reason for this is security, control and the ever important element of surprise. Arrange the barrels so that any vehicle entering the CP must zig-zag through. If a large vehicle tries to enter, you will have to move some of the oil barrels, and you're better off if they're empty. In the event of a forced entry, the perpetrator will think all the oil barrels are easily bumped out of the way - until she hits the barrels full of concrete. Snicker...

Lots of barbed wire
Optional. The surrounding area of the CP must put off any attempts to go around it, either by vehicle or on foot. Sprinkle the CP perimeter with generous amounts of barbed wire. Anyone getting stuck in the wire will be dealt with in quiet periods on the CP. Placing complimentary biscuits and bottles of water at strategic points in the wire is of course up to you.

You will need some sort of comms equipment at the CP in the event that you need to communicate with higher ranked personnel, emergency services or any other backup team placed at a distance from the CP. A regular telephone will do. Walkie-talkies for backup is a bonus.

Optional. You cannot operate a CP in the dark. It defies the whole idea of it all. Light up the CP area as well as the roads leading to and from it. The exception here is CPs in field conditions where the personnel manning the CP might need night vision. Get a hold of a couple of flashlights as well.

Sandbags and sand
Optional. Build a U-shaped wall of sandbags you can hide behind if anything happens. Also, any person told to leave the vehicle so you can do a thorough search on it, should also be placed inside this structure and kept under control by a member of the backup team.

Somewhere to piss
You will want to take a leak sooner or later. Pissing places at your discretion will deteriorate the hygienic conditions. Trust me.

Water and food supplies
Eating, drinking and pissing is a fact of life. Live with it. Does wonders for morale at the CP. Eat only while you act as backup.

CP conduct

The following are the golden rules of a CP. If you for any reason violate one of these, the situation will escalate into ugliness sooner or later.

  • Be firm
  • Have control
  • Stay calm and polite
  • Always have backup

First of all: take turns as backup and standing in the CP. A CP is a part of a greater whole. Be aware of the situation elsewhere. If something happens somewehere and you are ordered to close down the CP, make sure you can do it in the fastest way possible. Remember that the CP is controlled by you, and you should always try to project this idea on to whoever comes around. Never rush anything.

If you need to perform a vehicle search
Stand in the middle of the road until the vehicle has come to a full stop. Motion the driver to stop the engine, walk over to the driver's window and optionally ask for identification. If it's okay, hand it back. Order the driver and any passengers to step out of the vehicle. Never touch the vehicle in any way. Be polite and firm. Look the driver in the eye when talking. Order the driver to open the hood, the baggage compartment, all doors and the glove compartment. Stand back while this is being done.

Make the driver and any passengers stand or sit in the U-shaped sandbag thing you constructed earlier. Make your backup keep an eye on them. If it's a military type CP, do not point any weapons at people. If they try to act cocky, loading your weapon audibly will be sufficient to send the message about who's in charge. You are not here to kill anyone. You are here to check cars.

Now, start with under the hood. Do you see anything out of the ordinary? No strange wiring? Check the air filter while you're in there. Don't break anything. Close the hood when you're done. If you're not sure how it's done, let the driver do it later. Next, check the baggage compartment. If you are carrying a rifle, it's OK to lean it against something while you lift everything out. Don't break anything, taste anything, say anything or ask anything. If you find any weapons, explosives, ammunition, weapon parts or other things regarded as illegal to transport beyond the CP, you will have established routines on how you deal with this. Follow them. Do not start an argument, and remember to always be firm and polite.

Now it's time for the interior of the car. You obviously cannot rip everything apart like you are some customs officer, no matter how much you would like to. If your alarm bell goes off, call for backup and have the vehicle moved to another area for closer inspection. With this in mind, check under the seats (yes, the backseat too), in the glove compartment, under the wheel, under the floor mats and gently tap the doors. Anything sound wrong? Don't break anything. If you see things of a private nature, check them out without commenting. Keep your mouth shut.

Lastly, check under the car. Yes people, you will have to lie down or use a mirror. What you are looking for are stuff that's placed under the car to avoid being seen by you or someone else. Be aware that people might have other reasons to put things under their car than to smuggle it somewhere, but it's highly unlikely.

So, you checked the car and found nothing. Walk over to the U-shaped sandbag thing and talk politely to the driver. Tell him that it's okay for him to drive on. Keep out of the way. Don't set yourself up for a hostage situation. Be polite when the vehicle leaves. Salute sharply, say "goodbye and have a nice trip" or whatever constitutes good manners in the setting you're in.

When the vehicle leaves the CP - and not before - let the next one enter.

The next shift
When it's time to leave the CP in order to let the next team take over, make them wait outside the CP until you are ready to be relieved. Do not let someone take over a vehicle search or step up in the middle of a situation unless you say it's allright. It almost never is. When the next shift takes over, pack up your stuff and get the hell out. There's always more than enough going on in a CP, so don't add to it. Save the chitchat for later.

When the shit hits the fan
If a situation escalates or you have to detain someone at the CP, this is where your backup team comes in handy. Your resident backup will call in the backup team in order to attempt to clear out the situation. You can never prepare for things like that, but planning, training and experience will take you a long way.

The only one who actually wants to be in a CP is you.
Keep this in the back of your head, and most things will play out fine.

Disclaimer: this is for educational purposes only. I was a trained professional. Do not try this at home. I personally learned this stuff in a war zone, where everyone used live ammo and people's agenda was to try to kill each other in a breaking news sort of way. If you have no real need for a checkpoint, don't set one up.