Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The District of Criminals

*** The District of Criminals

Stop and seize
- Washington Post

After the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the government called
on police to become the eyes and ears of homeland security on
America's highways.

Local officers, county deputies and state troopers were encouraged to
act more aggressively in searching for suspicious people, drugs and
other contraband. The departments of Homeland Security and Justice
spent millions on police training.

The effort succeeded, but it had an impact that has been 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,
a Washington Post investigation found. 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.

Hain's book calls for "turning our police forces into present-day
Robin Hoods."

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.

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