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And now cops are seizing the bail money people bring in to bail out loved ones

Under Asset Forfeiture Law, Wisconsin Cops Confiscate Families' Bail Money
On Feb. 29, a judge set Greer's bail at $7,500, and his mother called the Brown County jail to see where and how she could get him out. "The police specifically told us to bring cash," Greer says. "Not a cashier's check or a credit card. They said cash." So Greer and her family visited a series of ATMs, and on March 1, she brought the money to the jail, thinking she'd be taking Joel Greer home. But she left without her money, or her son. Instead jail officials called in the same Drug Task Force that arrested Greer. A drug-sniffing dog inspected the Greers' cash, and about a half-hour later, Beverly Greer said, a police officer told her the dog had alerted to the presence of narcotics on the bills -- and that the police department would be confiscating the bail money. "I told them the money had just come from the bank," Beverly Greer says. "We had just taken it out. If the money had drugs on it, then they should go seize all the money at the bank, too. I just don't understand how they could do that." The Greers had been subjected to civil asset forfeiture, a policy that lets police confiscate money and property even if they can only loosely connect them to drug activity. The cash, or revenue from the property seized, often goes back to the coffers of the police department that confiscated it. It's a policy critics say is often abused, but experts told The HuffPost that the way the law is applied to bail money in Brown County is exceptionally unfair. It took four months for Beverly Greer to get her family's money back, and then only after attorney Andy Williams agreed to take their case. "The family produced the ATM receipts proving that had recently withdrawn the money," Williams says. "Beverly Greer had documentation for her disability check and her tax return. Even then, the police tried to keep their money." . . . Civil asset forfeiture is based on the premise that a piece of property -- a car, a pile of cash, a house -- can be guilty of a crime. Laws vary from state to state, but generally, law enforcement officials can seize property if they can show any connection between the property and illegal activity. It is then up to the owner of the property to prove in court that he owns it or earned it legitimately. It doesn't require a property owner to actually be convicted of a crime. In fact, most people who lose property to civil asset forfeiture are never charged.

May 17, 2012

Oakland considering law making it illegal to carry shields, paint, or lighter fluid

The law would define shields as a weapon, which seems like a complete perversion of thought. Oakland law targets violent protesters - Inside Bay Area
OAKLAND -- A proposed law would make it easier for police to arrest Occupy Oakland agitators by prohibiting them from possessing their weapons of choice at protests. The proposal would make it a misdemeanor to bring a host of items to protests including shields, fire accelerant and pressurized paint sprayers that several Occupy members have used against police officers and on private property. Rather than having to catch Occupy agitators in the act of damaging property or using the makeshift weapons, police would be able to arrest protesters they saw carrying the prohibited items, potentially weeding out agitators before protests get violent. "It's not the end all be all, but it does provide an extra tool that makes it more likely that vandals will get arrested," said Councilwoman Pat Kernighan, who heads the council's Public Safety Commission that will take up the proposal on Tuesday. Occupy Oakland member Mike King feared the law would give police greater latitude to search protesters and lead to even stricter prohibitions. "It's just a way of controlling and manipulating what should be constitutionally permitted forms of protest," he said. Attorneys with the ACLU and National Lawyers Guild did not return calls Wednesday. . . . Those arrested under the ordinance would face up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
*via Susie Cagle on Twitter*

May 16, 2012

65 people so far charged with stealing and selling U.S. military equipment

Those charged Include 47 actual military personnel. Camp Lejeune equipment theft | TPMMuckraker
Forty-seven U.S. service members and 21 civilians have been charged in connection to the sale of military equipment stolen from Camp Lejeune and other military installations, the result of a two-year investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, The Jacksonville Daily News reports. Camp Lejeune Marines sold more than $2 million worth of equipment online, through websites like eBay and Craiglist, the Daily News reports. Sales were also made at yard sales and face-to-face deals. One official told the paper that NCIS agents “found that some military members were selling guns, or attempting to sell guns, to street gangs in North Carolina and elsewhere.” An undercover NCIS operation has recovered $1.8 million in stolen weapons and equipment, including assault rifles, night-vision goggles and $800 flashlights. . . .