Like something you here about from tourists to third world nations CNN is reporting an investigation into allegations of Police Officers in Tenaha Texas ( see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenaha,_Texas ) are shaking down motorist for minor traffic infractions. See http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/05/05/texas.police.seizures/index.html?eref=rss_topstories The incidents are all erily similar and show disparite treatment of African American motorists giving rise to blatant and invidious discrimination. The facts are similar, either pay up now surrender your assets or face jail, money laundering charges and in some cases losing your children to the County protective children services. I have only seen this pay or perish scenario in the old black and white movies, but if true it demonstrates why good officers get bad raps from foolish and perhaps bigoted law enforcement agencies. IF TRUE THIS IS EXTORTION PLAIN AND SIMPLE.
It is also being reported that many ( disproportionate raising the inference of discrimination) of the motorist being stopped were African American. Apparently motorist were told to pay up or they would seize their car or face jail. See http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-texas-profiling_wittmar10,0,6051682.story
In one reported scenario the Police threatened to seize the children of an African American couple if they did not turn over $6000.00 , which they had in their possession to purchase a new car. Apparently the local Shelby District Attorney http://www.scdag.com/drew up complaints in many dubious cases.
In March the LA Times first reported possible misconduct and illegal search and seizure of motorist vehicles, warning LA residents to stay clear. See http://www.latimes.com/news/la-na-texas-profiling11-2009mar11,0,2572041.story
The local Tenaha Police with the apparent knowledge and support of the Shelby County DA, say they are stopping cars for “drug interdiction”. However, a search of a car is not automatic and the U.S. Supreme Court just this past week ruled Police may not search a car absent probable cause just because the motorist is subject to arrest. See http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=a.kbCVkBoPXM&refer=home
In many jurisdiction especially rural America “forfeiture” of assets has been used as a way to fund law enforcement agencies. PBS reported on this as an ” economic agenda” a hidden result of the drug war see http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/snitch/readings/hidden.html
I will continue to monitor this incident, but with a population of only 1000 residents, this aggressive law enforcement seems to be dubious, possibly discriminatory, and highly suspect.
A blogger http://deathdrive83.blogspot.com/2009/03/texas-law-enforcement-using-civil-asset.html first reported this incident and it took a couple of months for the major press to catch on, no wonder the old print media is struggling.