Small Town Cops Robbing Minorities With Assist From District Attorney

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Because operating budgets are shrinking rapidly in these sluggish economic times many cities and towns are looking for innovative ways to continue to fund essential government services for their residents. Some cities reduce staff, cut hours, hold off hiring new employees and many even resort to asking folks to take unpaid time off in an attempt to make ends meet. What has probably not entered the minds of most government officials is the thought of adding to city coffers by robbing minority motorists who happen to be driving through their locales. Most that is, but certainly not all.

Driving while black or brown through the small town of Tenaha Texas a mere two miles an hour over the speed limit can cost you big time if you get pulled over by an armed criminal sporting a shiny badge and handcuffs. By the way if you get nailed you can forget about an assist from the district attorney, a sworn officer of the court, who it seems is a major part of this scam.

You can drive into this dusty fleck of a town near the Texas-Louisiana state line if you’re African American, but you might not be able to drive out of it — at least not with your car, your cash, your jewelry or other valuables.

That’s because the police here allegedly have found a way to strip motorists, many of them black, of their property without ever charging them with a crime. Instead they offer out-of-towners a grim choice: Sign over your belongings to the town, or face felony charges of money laundering or other serious crimes.

More than 140 people reluctantly accepted that deal from June 2006 to June 2008, according to court records. Among them were a black grandmother from Akron, Ohio, who surrendered $4,000 in cash after Tenaha police pulled her over, and an interracial couple from Houston, who gave up more than $6,000 after police threatened to seize their children and put them into foster care, the court documents show. Neither the grandmother nor the couple were charged with or convicted of any crime.

Officials in Tenaha, along a heavily traveled state highway connecting Houston with several popular gambling destinations in Louisiana, say they are engaged in a battle against drug trafficking, and they call the search-and-seizure practice a legitimate use of the state’s asset-forfeiture law. That law permits local police agencies to keep drug money and other property used in the commission of a crime and add the proceeds to their budgets.

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This entry was posted in Law Enforcement Issues.

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