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August 06, 2013

Civil Forfeiture: The legal way cops steal money from innocent people

It literally is the police saying, "give us all the money you have or we will charge you with every crime we can imagine." Sarah Stillman: The Use and Abuse of Civil Forfeiture : The New Yorker
They pulled into a mini-mart for snacks. When they returned to the highway ten minutes later, Boatright, a honey-blond “Texas redneck from Lubbock,” by her own reckoning, and Henderson, who is Latino, noticed something strange. The same police car that their eleven-year-old had admired in the mini-mart parking lot was trailing them. Near the city limits, a tall, bull-shouldered officer named Barry Washington pulled them over. He asked if Henderson knew that he’d been driving in the left lane for more than half a mile without passing. No, Henderson replied. He said he’d moved into the left lane so that the police car could make its way onto the highway. Were there any drugs in the car? When Henderson and Boatright said no, the officer asked if he and his partner could search the car. The officers found the couple’s cash and a marbled-glass pipe that Boatright said was a gift for her sister-in-law, and escorted them across town to the police station. In a corner there, two tables were heaped with jewelry, DVD players, cell phones, and the like. According to the police report, Boatright and Henderson fit the profile of drug couriers: they were driving from Houston, “a known point for distribution of illegal narcotics,” to Linden, “a known place to receive illegal narcotics.” The report describes their children as possible decoys, meant to distract police as the couple breezed down the road, smoking marijuana. (None was found in the car, although Washington claimed to have smelled it.) The county’s district attorney, a fifty-seven-year-old woman with feathered Charlie’s Angels hair named Lynda K. Russell, arrived an hour later. Russell, who moonlighted locally as a country singer, told Henderson and Boatright that they had two options. They could face felony charges for “money laundering” and “child endangerment,” in which case they would go to jail and their children would be handed over to foster care. Or they could sign over their cash to the city of Tenaha, and get back on the road. “No criminal charges shall be filed,” a waiver she drafted read, “and our children shall not be turned over to CPS,” or Child Protective Services. “Where are we?” Boatright remembers thinking. “Is this some kind of foreign country, where they’re selling people’s kids off?” Holding her sixteen-month-old on her hip, she broke down in tears. Later, she learned that cash-for-freedom deals had become a point of pride for Tenaha, and that versions of the tactic were used across the country. “Be safe and keep up the good work,” the city marshal wrote to Washington, following a raft of complaints from out-of-town drivers who claimed that they had been stopped in Tenaha and stripped of cash, valuables, and, in at least one case, an infant child, without clear evidence of contraband. . . .

August 03, 2013

Texas police policy is now to do cavity searches on women who speed

This is awful, of course. Complete police state bullshit. But the grossest part has to be that they don't switch gloves between probing the anus and vagina. Is this really what Texas thinks is important to do to women who are caught speeding? Give them potentially nasty infections? The Police State and the Private, Texas Edition - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money
The first video was graphic enough. Two women, as shown in a Texas state trooper’s dash cam recording, are probed in their vaginas and rectums by a glove-wearing female officer after a routine traffic stop near Dallas. A few days later, a second video surfaced. It was an eerily similar scenario, but this time the traffic stop was just outside Houston, and with different troopers. Two women, pulled over for allegedly speeding, are subjected to body cavity searches by a female officer summoned to the scene by a male trooper. Unlike the earlier tape, this one had clear audio. Yells can be heard as the female trooper shoves her gloved finger inside one woman. In both invasive incidents, the female troopers don’t change gloves between probes, according to the horrified victims. Texas officials say the searches are unconstitutional. So do attorneys for the shaken women, who have filed federal lawsuits. [...] So how did Texas troopers hundreds of miles apart get captured on dash cams conducting body cavity searches under nearly identical conditions? “The fact that they both happened means there is some sort of (department) policy” advocating their use at traffic stops, Jim Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project told the Daily News. “It’s such a prohibited practice. I don’t know why they think they can do this. It’s mind-boggling.”