Friday, November 15, 2013

Police as Extortionists

Give us the money or give us your kids

Like Jack Benny said "Wait a minute; I'm thinking."
Think speed traps are crooked? A Texas town’s “cash for freedom” policy has taken highway robbery to a whole new level.

Imagine getting pulled over while on a family vacation and having small-town cops accuse you and your family of being drug couriers. Then imagine hearing that you have two options: Fork over your cash and continue on your vacation or face felony charges for money laundering and child endangerment, in which case you go to jail and your kids get handed over to foster care. That’s what happened to Ron Henderson and Jennifer Boatright while traveling through Tenaha, Texas, a town that regards piracy as just another way to raise revenue.

Henderson and Boatright’s case helped launch a class action lawsuit against abusive civil forfeiture laws, laws which allow law enforcement to to shake down people and cash in. And don’t be fooled by officers tooling around town in Escalades seized from hotshot drug dealers--law enforcement often targets those who cannot afford to hire an attorney to fight for the return of their property.
Certainly, not all police agencies utilize the civil forfeiture laws this boldly, but the scary fact is that the laws allow, and indeed, encourage such behavior.  A police agency that fails to use the ability is seen as weak, and somehow criminal friendly.  

It turns out that the couple was carrying the cash to buy a used car with, and the police searched them because they "fit the profile of drug couriers," traveling between a major city, Houston, and a minor city Linden, as drugs commonly do.  Under that profile, almost any one could be shaken down for any cash on hand.

And why would they let real drug couriers go for the cash? Sustainable cash farming?

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