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POLICE BANDITS

Part 2
Sections I wrote Copyright 1999 By Ray Thomas

REFORMS ON HORIZON

Change is around the corner. Stating that "a lack of uniformity and accountability in forfeiture procedures across the state has undermined confidence in the system,'' [What "confidence? Confidence that the right thieves get the right amount of money? -RT] the Arkansas Legislature this year passed a reform package sponsored by Sen. Wayne Dowd, D-Texarkana, Sen. Jim Hill, D-Nashville, and Rep. James Luker, D-Wynne. The new laws, already signed into law by the governor, will: Bar transfers of forfeitures to federal court unless authorized by a circuit court judge. Mandate that the state get a 20 percent "cut" ["Cut." Interesting word for them to use. Think maybe they slipped up? -RT] of anything over $20,000 generated locally in forfeitures annually. That money would go to the state's beleaguered Crime Laboratory system, where testing on drug evidence often lags for six months.

Require new inventories of all items seized and a new disposition report that shows how courts rule on seized property. Agencies that fail to file such reports with the state's drug director will be barred from sharing in any more forfeiture money or state grants. [Poor baby! If they try to steal from the state what they've stolen from the public, they won't be able to get a cut of the loot any more. -RT]

Force prosecutors to put evidence before a circuit court judge on all seizures, even if nobody files a protest. The old law allowed prosecutors to forfeit property administratively if nobody filed papers seeking a day in court and if the amount was less than $100,000. [In other words, if the victim didn't protest, they just "divvied it up" without consulting the court. -RT]

However, a companion bill that would have financed the hiring of three new employees for the state's drug director languished in the last legislative session. [Ain't it awful? The "chief thief" doesn't get a cut. -RT] "We will do the best we can with what we have,'' says Hardin, who had argued that the new employees were needed to keep up with the new reporting requirements.

The U.S. Congress, stoked by a series of high profile reports [Not to mention the loot. -RT], also is taking notice. U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde last week shepherded a reform bill through the House of Representatives. The bill attracted an unlikely alliance of supporters including the National Rifle Association, the Trial Lawyer's Association, the limited-government proponent Cato Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union. Hyde's push comes after a series of high-profile controversies, including reports that New York police confiscated cars of people on the basis of drunken-driving charges. [In Denver they take cars away from the wives of men who get oral sex in them without the wife's knowledge or consent. They also steal cars from people caught soliciting a prostitute. And they can now confiscate your car over unpaid parking tickets or inability to prove the car is insured. Not only that, they can take them if you pass through certain parts of Denver with a gun in the car, even if it is licensed. Next, they'll be taking cars for not keeping them clean. -RT]

Among Hyde's proposals:

Hyde's changes, which now go to the U.S. Senate for consideration, had the backing of U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., a Michigan Democrat, who has said the government should only have the right to seize property after convictions. [Isn't it a great thing somebody noticed? When they can take people's property without convicting them of a crime, they're committing a crime. I personally think that the very idea of being able to confiscate people's property makes many police into bandits who are more interested in how much they can confiscate, rather than in how they can enforce the law. I believe the RICO laws should be abolished, on land and on sea. -RT]

"Frankly, there is suspicion that much of forfeiture is just to enrich the particular police jurisdiction,'' Conyers says. [Suspicion? I'd say it was a certainty. The evidence proves it. -RT] But West Memphis Police Chief Robert Paudert says his officers aren't out for money. [Yeah chief, we believe you. -RT] Rather, it's drugs his officers want to stop -- the very drugs suspected of inciting a drive-by shooting earlier this year that lodged bullets in the head, side and leg of a 3-year-old girl asleep in her bedroom. After that shooting, he reclassified two officers assigned to the interstate to a street interdiction team that patrols city neighborhoods. Paudert recently put one of the officers back out on the interstate in hopes of snaring drugs headed to Memphis -- drugs he says eventually trickle back into West Memphis. He tells critics of his officers to go visit that injured girl, the one who now is having to relearn how to use her right arm. [Better "pickin's" on the Interstate. -RT]

But such a visit probably wouldn't clear up Salvador Cantu's suspicions. Those were generated by his own experience in Crittenden County, where he was stopped for careless driving in June 1996. A deputy searched his car and took $29,000 from him. Cantu says his family planned to move back to McAllen, Texas, from Calumet, Ill., and his father had given him the money to take to an uncle in Texas for safekeeping. But back at the sheriff's office, the deputy reported marijuana residue fell off the money during a shake test. [Did anybody important see it? And did he think about the fact that drug residue can be found on just about any money? -RT]

Cantu, now 26, has just one question: If there was marijuana on the money, how come the Mississippi County sheriff's deputy who stopped him earlier in the day didn't find any? [Cuz' it wasn't there. They only "found it" so they could keep the money. The first deputy was honest. -RT] The Democrat-Gazette confirmed that Cantu was stopped in Mississippi County earlier that day. The deputy there counted the money but chose not to seize it, issuing Cantu a warning for driving without a front license plate. Cantu got his money back months later but only after providing records that showed the family sold a house for $88,000 in 1995. [And how much did it cost him to get it back? -RT]

Now, whenever Cantu takes a trip, he makes sure he doesn't go through Arkansas. "You can't even drive through that state," says Cantu. "They'll pull you over for any reason.'' [What do you expect from the state run by the friends and accomplices of the "chief thief," Clinton? -RT]


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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake.


This is a rather long article, but it serves to illustrate graphically what is going on all over the country since they passed the RICO laws. Police in many areas spend most of their time stealing money from innocent people and fighting over the loot, rather than enforcing the law. They're not interested in enforcing the law in situations where there isn't a big bundle of money to steal. The RICO laws have made bandits out of a large percentage of police agencies, as well as individual police personnel. This is wrong.

The entire concept of police being able to confiscate the property and money of suspected wrongdoers to keep them from being able to mount an effective defense is not only wrong, it violates constitutional protections, not only against unreasonable search and seizure, but also the concept of being innocent until proven guilty. To take large amounts of money from innocent people whose only crime is to have it on them makes thieves of the police.

We have to get rid of the RICO laws altogether, rather than just "reform" them, as Henry Hyde is trying to do. It's "too little, too late," and serves to "legitimize" police theft. This must be stopped.

I was criticized the other day for using "inflammatory language" in what I write. The idea seems to be that I could get further if I didn't use such terms as "thief" and thievery," and "stealing" to describe what the police are doing. But I don't agree. I refuse to be "mealy-mouthed." When I describe a thief, even (especially) if he is wearing a badge, I call him a thief. Maybe someone will notice that way.

RAY THOMA$


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