Saturday, March 14, 2009

Southern Man

Sounds like Southern cops have really lost a step. I mean, in the old days, they'da took your money and made sure there wasn't enough left of you to tell anyone. Might want to check the dumps and swamps around this festering shithole, though it's probably all dumps and swamps. You'd think they would have at least tasered somebody just for practice.

Officials in the tiny east Texas town of Tenaha are accused in a federal lawsuit of stopping African-Americans driving through town and seizing their money and property by threatening them with criminal prosecution -- or worse.

Among the plaintiffs are two African-Americans who claim they forfeited more than $50,000 under threat of money-laundering charges, and a biracial couple who gave up more than $6,000 after officials threatened to put their children in foster care. No one was charged with a crime.

What year is this again? What country is this again? I just read Tom Bissell's Chasing the Sea, and cops in fucking Uzbekistan aren't this shamelessly corrupt. Bissell writes of cops shaking him down for five bucks or so at a time, and actually being pretty civil about it. This is just organized crime here.

But here's the thing that's most galling:

"The police and local district attorney there say they're operating within the law, and it appears as if they are," said Howard Witt, the Tribune reporter who wrote the story. "Texas has an asset forfeiture law similar to many other states, and it basically allows police to seize assets [that] are used, or suspected in being used, in commission of a crime."

The law as it currently exists does not mandate that a person be convicted of a crime or even charged with one before the police can seize the assets, Witt said. A bill was introduced Tuesday in the state Legislature to close that loophole, he said, because of the alleged goings-on in Tenaha.

This is what your War on Some Drugs gets you, America, a nearly complete forfeiture of Fourth Amendment rights, and due process. Low-level drug dealers doing long stretches because of mandatory minimum sentencing, redneck cops literally getting away with highway robbery, transit cops blowing away physically restrained partiers for no goddamned reason, the world's highest incarceration rate, and no real dent in the actual problem. It merely chips away at the situation, while eroding everyone's basic rights as a citizen. It's been going on for a full generation now, and it should be unacceptable.

More importantly, in this case they're obviously hiding behind the WoSD rubric, when the real problem is the timeless cracker-cops-pushing-dark-people-around-because-they-can syndrome.


Sharkbabe said...

Don't we remember Tulia, Texas?

Stopping you and taking all your shit? Hell, these motherfuckers will put you behind bars for the rest of your life for nothin but the sheer good old asshole sport of it.

joel hanes said...

In my pinko dreams a Democratic Congress explicitly outlaws civil forfeiture, and makes clear that the Fourth Amendment actually says what it seems to say.