Tag Archives: policing for profit

TN Officer Charged With Theft After Taking $6,000 Using Civil Asset Forfeiture

According to a state Comptroller’s report in Tennessee, a former police officer failed to deposit cash he collected for the return of seized vehicles totaling $6,000.

“During 2014 and 2015, former police Sgt. Michael Hurt failed to turn over cash totaling at least $6,000 for deposit. Sgt. Hurt was responsible for returning to owners or lienholders vehicles seized by the police department,” read the report. “In at least one instance, Sgt. Hurt acknowledged that he ‘renegotiated’ and reduced the cash settlement ordered by the Department of Safety from $5,000 down to $1,500. Mr. Hurt altered records, failed to record or receipt the majority of the cash, and made a false entry in police department records in an apparent attempt to conceal his activities.”

Hurt was ordered by the Tennessee Department of Safety to hand the vehicles over back to their original owners.

“We have this system going on around the country where people are having their property taken and it’s going into the bank accounts of police departments. It’s not that great a logical leap to hear of something like this,” Bates said of the Morristown audit.

Hurt was later indicted on two counts of theft over $1,000, one count of theft under $500, and one count of official misconduct.

As reported previously by Truth In Media, some states are making reforms to protect citizens and curtail corrupt police departments. But stories like the one in Tennessee are becoming all too common.

Truth In Media’s Barry Donegan reported that the city of Richland, Mississippi “currently features a $4.1 million police station, a fleet of new Dodge Chargers, and a top-of-the-line law enforcement training complex paid for through civil asset forfeiture, a legal process through which police seize property from individuals suspected, but not convicted, of a crime.”

Donegan noted that the Cato Institute has referred to mechanisms that fund police agencies through civil asset forfeiture as “policing for profit.”

Law Enforcement Predicts New Mexico Civil Forfeiture Reform Will Damage Police Budgets

Significant civil forfeiture reform in New Mexico went into effect on July 1, and law enforcement officials have predicted that their departments will be struggling to compensate for large cuts in their budgets due to the new law.

Before House Bill 560 was introduced and ultimately signed into law, police departments and other law enforcement agencies had the ability to seize cash, cars, luxury items, and homes with no requirement of obtaining a criminal conviction or even a criminal charge related to the items. Law enforcement officials would then turn these items over to sell at auctions. The proceeds from seized items sold at auction were used to purchase equipment and provide training. This practice has been described as “policing for profit”.

Last November, former Las Cruces, New Mexico city attorney Harry S. Connelly Jr. was heavily criticized after he was caught on video while holding a civil asset forfeiture seminar describing such items as “little goodies” and discussing excitement stemming from spotting a luxury car. “We always try to get, every once in a while, like maybe a good car,” Connelly said. “This guy drives up in a 2008 Mercedes, brand new. Just so beautiful, I mean, the cops were undercover and they were just like ‘Ahhhh.’ And he gets out and he’s just reeking of alcohol. And it’s like, ‘Oh, my goodness, we can hardly wait.'”

[RELATED: Police Wish List Reportedly Being Used to Train Cops on What to Seize from Drug Suspects]

Connelly also admitted that he had worked with police to secure “wish list” items. “If you want the car, and you really want to put it in your fleet, let me know- I’ll fight for it,” he had said. Connelly was later placed on leave and replaced by William R. Babington, Jr. as city attorney.

With the passage of HB 560, no items may be seized unless there is a criminal conviction or a guilty plea. Seized items must be placed in storage and then shipped to the state’s treasury office. Revenue collected from auctioned items will be placed in the state’s general fund rather than added to police budgets.

Farmington’s Daily Times reported that the civil forfeiture process had funded about a quarter of the Region II Narcotics Task Force’s operating budget- about $100,000 each year according to the task force’s director, Sgt. Kyle Dowdy. Dowdy said that now a plan must now be established to make up for the lost revenue, as well the consideration of a reduction in police purchases and training.

“We’re going to try not to seize,” Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said. Hebbe pointed out that the department has to cover the cost of item storage and shipment and called that provision an unfunded mandate.

Rep. Rod Montoya, (R-Farmington) said that no law enforcement agents had testified in the House to discuss consequences of the bill, while Hebbe said no police chiefs were contacted regarding to the bill’s impact. Hebbe said that he’s unsure of what impact the new law will have on police department budgets across the state. “I don’t think that they anticipated how much it’s going to hit local law enforcement, and we’re still trying to figure out how bad it’s going to hit us,” he said.

Truth in Media Gets It Right, DOJ Says Policing for Profit Part of Ferguson Discrimination

A report from an investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, exercised discrimination against the black community by using excessive force, issuing minor citations and making unnecessary traffic stops.

While the full report has not yet been released, anonymous federal law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that it “chronicles discriminatory practices across the city’s criminal justice system, detailing problems from initial encounters with patrol officers to treatment in the municipal court and jail.

The investigation began weeks after an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, in the city of Ferguson in August.

The officials told the Associated Press the investigation found that in a city that is 67 percent African American, “black were 68 percent less likely than others to have their cases dismissed by a municipal court judge.”

The officials also found that 88 percent of the time use of excessive force was documented by police, it was being used against a black individual, and that out of the city’s 53 police officers, only three were black.

Investigative Journalist Ben Swann documented the clashes between the residents and local police when he visited the city of Ferguson in November.

Swann pointed out that while a lot of people would describe the moment Brown was shot by Wilson as the moment conflict began, some of the city’s residents would say the shooting was the highlight of something that has been building under the surface for decades.

Mark and Earl Banks, brothers who grew up in Ferguson, and now live in Detroit, told Swann that they aren’t surprised by this incident, and that the issues in Detroit are no different than the issues in Ferguson.

Joe Stevenson, who also grew up in Ferguson, told Swann that 30 years ago, just like today, the relationship between citizens and police was tense. He attributed this to the fact that police would look for anyone to write tickets for in order to obtain money from fines.

You could make the argument that this all comes back to social media and new media: the ability for people to rally together, to protest, to communicate, for information to rise to the surface,” Swann said. “Maybe this incident was a long time coming, but for many they’re glad that the moment is finally here.”

Ben Swann: The Problem of Policing for Profit in Out-of-Touch Municipalities

On Monday, Investigative Journalist Ben Swann joined Jerry Doyle on the Jerry Doyle Show to discuss the current events in Ferguson, Missouri, as the country prepared to hear the verdict of whether or not Officer Darren Wilson would be indicted for shooting and killing Michael Brown.

They began by discussing the Grand Jury, and the fact that this case was different than most. Swann explained that in this case, the prosecuting attorney was not only presenting the evidence that might have led to Wilson being indicted, but he was also presenting the defense.

He’s actually arguing both sides,” said Swann. “He’s arguing defense for the officer, and he’s questioning whether or not there is evidence. That would never happen with you or I, and I think that’s part of the problem with this particular situation.”

Swann said that in this case, the most appropriate thing to do would have been for “the St. Louis County prosecutor to recuse himself, and bring in a separate prosecutor,” which did not happen.

When visiting Ferguson two weeks ago, Swann found that the people were not able to identify with the police officers in their community, due to the fact that the majority of the officers do not live in Ferguson.

While most of the media is focused on the results of the Grand Jury’s verdict, Swann pointed out that they are not talking about the issues that have led up to this point.

There is a single incident, yes, but that single incident does not stand alone,” said Swann. “It’s woven into the fabric of all of the issues surrounding this.”

Swann explained that as people are watching coverage of the events in communities like Ferguson, Missouri, they will see the media highlight the events as those where it is “black vs. white,” when in reality, it is an issue of a “municipality that does not respect its people.”

Police officers are not trained to see people as their employers,” said Swann. “They are trained to see citizens as a way of deriving revenue.”

Swann said that one major issue plaguing Ferguson was not the way people were reacting, as much as it was the police’s response to the people’s reaction.

What blew Ferguson up the last time was not the protests, it was how police responded to the protests,” said Swann, who went on to explain that while there were “legitimate criminal acts” occurring that required a response from police, the police weren’t using tanks, tear gas, and rubber bullets to combat the rioters and looters, they were using them against the protestors.

Another issue Swann found evident, not only in this case, but also in communities across the country, was the issue of “policing for profit.”

“Ferguson is an especially egregious community when it comes to officers who write citations,” said Swann, who explained policing for profit as a “form of fining people with tickets for as many infractions as possible.”

As a result, the city of Ferguson profited $3.2 million from traffic fines in the year 2013.

Due to the growing epidemic of policing for profit, Swann said that the community of Ferguson does not feel like the police force is there “to serve or to protect,” as much are they are there “to derive revenue from people.”

It’s not a black vs. white issue. It’s a citizen vs. municipality issue.”


Ben Swann Live in Ferguson Missouri on “eve” of Grand Jury Decision

Ferguson, MO- As the community of Ferguson, Missouri prepares for the reading of a grand jury decision on the police killing of African-American teenager Michael Brown, Ben Swann is on the ground taking a hard look at the issues behind the unrest that shook the nation.

Broadcasting live with RT America, Ben Swann goes beyond the headlines to examine the growing militarization of American police, the emerging “policing for profit” trend and why the issues in Ferguson are much bigger than just the case of Officer Darren Wilson and the Brown family.

Couple Wants Their $48,000 Back From Police

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A Minnesota couple has filed a petition to get their $48,000 in cash back from the Iowa City Police Department. Earlier this month Tiffani D.S. Barber and Kearnice C. Overton, of St. Paul, Minn. filed an application to the Johnson County District Court asserting that the officers had wrongfully seized their money.

Overton was traveling on Interstate 80 with his four children when he was pulled over with a group of other vehicles that Officer Michael Clark claimed were speeding.

A K-9 unit responded, and the dogs searched the vehicles. The officers alleged that the dog gave a silent indicator which they claim allowed them to physically search Overton’s vehicle. The officers then found $44,000 in a duffel bag and another $4,000 in Overton’s jacket.

Iowa City Police Sgt. Vicki Lalla could not comment in depth about the case, saying that many factors can go into an officer’s decision to seize the property, including the amount of cash present.

“It’s very unusual for people to be out and about with that much cash on their person or in their car,” she said.

Overton said the cash was going to be used in a real estate transaction. However, the sale was not completed and he was returning when he was stopped by police.

A hearing is set for May 6th.


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