Stop and Seize – A great article in the Washington Post

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Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes.

 

Largely hidden from public view: the spread of an aggressive brand of policing that has spurred the seizure of hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from motorists and others not charged with crimes.

Thousands of people have been forced to fight legal battles that can last more than a year to get their money back.

Behind the rise in seizures is a little-known cottage industry of private police-training firms that teach the techniques of “highway interdiction” to departments across the country.

One of those firms created a private intelligence network known as Black Asphalt Electronic Networking & Notification System that enabled police nationwide to share detailed reports about American motorists — criminals and the innocent alike — including their Social Security numbers, addresses and identifying tattoos, as well as hunches about which drivers to stop.

Many of the reports have been funneled to federal agencies and fusion centers as part of the government’s burgeoning law enforcement intelligence systems — despite warnings from state and federal authorities that the information could violate privacy and constitutional protections.

A thriving subculture of road officers on the network now competes to see who can seize the most cash and contraband, describing their exploits in the network’s chat rooms and sharing “trophy shots” of money and drugs. Some police advocate highway interdiction as a way of raising revenue for cash-strapped municipalities.

“All of our home towns are sitting on a tax-liberating gold mine,” Deputy Ron Hain of Kane County, Ill., wrote in a self-published book under a pseudonym. Hain is a marketing specialist for Desert Snow, a leading interdiction training firm based in Guthrie, Okla., whose founders also created Black Asphalt.

Cash seizures can be made under state or federal civil law. One of the primary ways police departments are able to seize money and share in the proceeds at the federal level is through a long-standing Justice Department civil asset forfeiture program known as Equitable Sharing. Asset forfeiture is an extraordinarily powerful law enforcement tool that allows the government to take cash and property without pressing criminal charges and then requires the owners to prove their possessions were legally acquired.

The Post found:

Civil forfeiture cash seizures

Under the federal Equitable Sharing Program, police have seized $2.5 billion since 2001 from people who were not charged with a crime and without a warrant being issued. Police reasoned that the money was crime-related. About $1.7 billion was sent back to law enforcement agencies for their use.

Here’s a list of some of the money sent back to local police in the United States for seizures made alone or with others.

There are no local agencies in the United States that received rebates of more than $250,000.

Note: Table does not include statewide agencies or task forces and only includes local agencies who received more than $250,000.

Source: A Washington Post analysis of Department of Justice data

 

Stop and Seize: More Investigative Articles by the Washington Post

In recent years, thousands of people have had cash confiscated by police without being charged with crimes. The Post looks at the police culture behind the seizures and the people who were forced to fight the government to get their money back.
Part 2: One training firm started a private intelligence-sharing network and helped shape law enforcement nationwide. Part 3: Motorists caught up in the seizures talk about the experience and the legal battles that sometimes took more than a year. Part 4: Police agencies nationwide routinely buy vehicles and weapons with money and property seized under federal civil forfeiture law from people who were not charged with a crime. Part 5: Highway seizure in Iowa fuels debate about asset-forfeiture laws. Part 6: D.C. police plan for future seizure proceeds years in advance in city budget documents. Chat transcript​: The reporters behind “Stop and Seize” answered your readers’ about the investigative series.

Know your rights:

During traffic stops on the nation’s highways, the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protects motorists “against unreasonable searches and seizures.” The law also gives police the power to investigate and act on their suspicions.

Sources: Jon Norris, criminal defense attorney; David A. Harris, University of Pittsburgh law professor; Scott Bullock, civil liberties lawyer, Institute for Justice; Department of Homeland Security.

Article Published on September 6, 2014

Read more detail here.  There is a lot more information