Stop and Seize: An Investigation into Asset Forfeiture
September 7, 2014 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Stop and Seize: Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes. A multimedia investigation by the Washington Post.
posted by milquetoast (67 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
Law enforcement in this country is a criminal organization from top to bottom, and it's destroying democracy.
posted by empath at 1:08 PM on September 7, 2014 [89 favorites]


This is something that really needs Congressional action. It's bullshit all around.

Good on the Washington Post for reporting on this. I've been reading reports of various sorts for the last decade or two about police cash seizures being made on flimsy evidence without any trial or even need to consult a judge or other authority other than the officer on the scene, and it has always smacked of a racket to me.

God forbid I'd ever have made a large cash withdrawal to go buy a new car or some big piece of equipment from Craigslist and get stopped by a cop. I routinely have trash on the floor of my car and keep a roll of duct tape in the trunk because, well, it's one of the most useful things on the planet. But apparently those two things are somehow indicators of being involved with the drug trade (and not simply being lazy and knowing the utility of duct tape).

Of course, I'm a white man above the age of 45 and I drive a Hyundai Accent, so chances are I would never be stopped. Privilege and all that.

This is something that really needs Congressional action. It's bullshit all around.
posted by hippybear at 1:08 PM on September 7, 2014 [15 favorites]


God, it's just all so awful and I'm at the point where I now mostly just feel despair instead of healthy anger. I mean, I know that sounds melodramatic but I feel like I'm not even asking "what can I do?" anymore because the constant stream of terribleness has actually just kind of sapped my energy and dealing with the insane amounts of police corruption and horrible tactics and procedures, official or unofficial, seems almost impossible.

I also wish there were penalties for stuff like this and compensation for people who have to deal with it. In so many cases, there's just no real disincentive for doing unfair, jackassly shit, be it unfair seizures by police or companies charging unfair or illegal fees or people sending bogus DCMA notices or whatever. It's really terrible how much bad stuff happens because the burden of getting justice done in terms of time and lawyers' fees and energy is just too high for people who haven't done anything wrong.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:13 PM on September 7, 2014 [26 favorites]


This sounds like the sort of stuff that happens in other countries, where the police are corrupt gangs that happen to have badges.
posted by grouse at 1:15 PM on September 7, 2014 [14 favorites]


Similarly:

Taken from the New Yorker.
How municipalities in St. Louis County, Mo., profit from poverty, also from WaPo.
How the Suburbs Got Poor.
posted by adamrice at 1:16 PM on September 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


This sounds like the sort of stuff that happens in other countries, where the police are corrupt gangs that happen to have badges.

Sorry because this is kind of low-hanging fruit and I really hate the FTFY-type stuff but I think it's becoming pretty clear that in THIS country the police are corrupt gangs that happen to have badges.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:16 PM on September 7, 2014 [40 favorites]


Really, I'm starting to think the sorts of problems we're seeing in local police forces are the sorts of problems that aren't going to be solved by anything short of an actual revolution. I have no idea how you do it at the ballot box.

I hate to get all anti-union, but the only way I think it's ever going to happen is if police unions are broken up.
posted by empath at 1:18 PM on September 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yes, I'm sure telling the maniacs with the war toys that they can't play anymore will go over well.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:22 PM on September 7, 2014


I hate to get all anti-union, but the only way I think it's ever going to happen is if police unions are broken up.

always this... someone should coin a law, like Godwin's Law, on the probability that someone will advocated abolishing a union in a thread about a libertarian issue.... because property is our first freedom! Does the problem with the drug war really come down to property rights and the constitution?

Welcome to your new conservatarian washpost.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:26 PM on September 7, 2014 [11 favorites]


The police are completely out of control in this country, and most Americans' worship of authority and the flag and anything that can be made to be "patriotic" isn't helping at all.

Part of this, I suspect, is the complete and utter overuse of the word "hero." Cops are heroes. Firemen are heroes. Soldiers are heroes. So when the heroes arrest or kill the bad guys and take away all their stuff, what could go wrong? We don't need to keep track of what they're up to....those are the bad guys! We're over here! Thanks, heroes!

Perry Farrell had it right: "The gang and the government are no different."
posted by nevercalm at 1:27 PM on September 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


"This is something that really needs Congressional action."

Great, we're super-fucked.

It'll be the courts or nothing; Congress has completely abdicated legislating because it gets in the way of their partisan gridlock and campaign commercial sound bites (and then they bitch when the judiciary or executive do it for them).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:28 PM on September 7, 2014 [20 favorites]


Guilty, until proven innocent.
posted by CrowGoat at 1:32 PM on September 7, 2014


"It'll be the courts or nothing"

One of the most unsettling parts of this whole mess is the fact that most of the time the innocent people being attacked by the power structure simply give up when faced with the nightmarish monstrosity that is the modern legal system.

The courts are just as bad as the ass hats in the house and executive.
posted by KeSetAffinityThread at 1:35 PM on September 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's not even guilty until proven innocent. It's "we'll just take this stuff that we have made up $REASONS that you shouldn't have, and if you want to fight us to get it back, you're welcome to."

There's no guilt or innocence involved. Especially with that Black Asphalt interagency system mentioned in the OP article. It's just "hey, this guys is a convenient mark, be on the lookout for him".
posted by hippybear at 1:38 PM on September 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


always this... someone should coin a law, like Godwin's Law, on the probability that someone will advocated abolishing a union in a thread about a libertarian issue.... because property is our first freedom! Does the problem with the drug war really come down to property rights and the constitution?

Welcome to your new conservatarian washpost.


I don't think this is a fair reading of empath's comment in which he explicitly says that he hates to say anything anti-union; I too am very, VERY supportive of unions in general and I find the police unions problematic in a lot of ways. I don't think that's the only problem, by far, but it's possible that it is one factor in creating the corrupt culture endemic in modern American police forces and jumping on people who point that out isn't really helping with this (really big) problem.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:40 PM on September 7, 2014 [11 favorites]


The problem with the drug war _is_ largely a problem with property rights and the constitution. With no economic incentives to continue it (the prison-industrial complex and forfeiture), it would evaporate.

But that has nothing to do with the police unions, who are largely a problem because they defend murderers and thieves on the police force as policy. I could care less about police salaries. I'd happily pay twice or three times as much for cops that don't murder and steal from people.
posted by empath at 1:44 PM on September 7, 2014 [38 favorites]


I didn't realize until reading the article that so much of this was taking place at the federal level. While Congress seems to have created these powers in the 70s, and local police are clearly the point operators, it seems that the Justice Department (along with Homeland Security) has quite a lot of participation and regulation of it all (as well as getting a lot of the cash). That's potentially a good thing, since I imagine they have a lot of latitude in how much local police are encouraged and rewarded for aggressively pursuing these things. The downside is that Justice has been run by a Democrat for six years who seems to have just as gleefully confiscated billions from the poor as his predecessors; the upside is that there may actually be room to pressure Obama (and, should she be a Democrat, his successor) about scaling this back. Time to start a petition!
posted by chortly at 1:55 PM on September 7, 2014


empath: in all seriousness, how would breaking up the unions help? From my perspective it doesn't seem like that's the problem as much as the blue shield mentality, where known misconduct is either unreported or punished as lightly as possible, and the enabling factors of racism and the drug war creating a reliable voting base for authoritarian policies. That's a cultural and – critically – managerial problem which the union is only tangentially involved with, except possibly to the extent that they're more effective as a voting block for the politicians who cover for misconduct.

Stop covering for the abusive cops and all of a sudden the union problem disappears – they can make a good case for providing solid legal defense but it's hard to motivate people to strike on behalf of a convicted rapist if the evidence isn't being concealed.
posted by adamsc at 1:59 PM on September 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


I think a lot of people have just created some super simple IF>THEN tree in their brains, wherein all unions = good, and anyone who is anti any union ever is bad.

I'm pretty deeply socialist, pro union, and just generally on that side or whatever, and i think that some more critical thinking is warranted here.

Not all unions are a net good, you don't even have to look that far into the past to find evidence of this, such as those which were anti integration and blatantly racist.

It seems like a lot of people here are defending the concept of a union, and pointing at the shittiest cases of recent union busting we all know.

The thing is, the cops aren't walmart cashiers or semi truck drivers getting shafted as "independent contractors" or whatever. Police unions seem to basically exist only to help sweep abuse under the rug at this point.

So yea, think long and hard before you bury the anti police union people. A lot of us are pro like, every other possible union that is actually capable of existing now and not in like 1940s alabama, which is where the cop unions seem to be stuck. If the union your defending essentially defends lynchings, you're keeping some weird company.
posted by emptythought at 1:59 PM on September 7, 2014 [20 favorites]


Eliminating police unions will make if far easier for management to remove the few good cops from the force.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:03 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Unions make it hard to get rid of cops.

That is both feature and bug. It makes it hard to get rid of bad cops, but it also protects good cops from the whims of the politicians that lead them.

To whatever extent police unions encourage Civil Forfeitures is unclear - it seems to me to be more of a leadership issue from the municipalities and jurisdictions impacted.

And really, who can be surprised ? It's basically money free for the taking, and even better it comes from people who can't vote for you, and allows you to cut taxes. If I were police chief, I'd be telling my cops to be out seizing shit, too.

It's a bad law, poorly written and poorly implemented. The best way to repeal a bad law ? Enforce it vigorously.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:06 PM on September 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Unions make it hard to get rid of cops.

That's sorta the point of a union. Due process.
posted by jpe at 2:08 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


What's not mentioned in this article is how easy it is to get a police dog to alert. Dogs respond to the cues their guardians give. If the guardian rewards the dog for alerting whenever the dog handler behaves a certain way (i.e. is tense), then the dog will alert whenever its handler behaves that way.

In other words, if the cop says "good dog" every time the dog alerts, and doesn't say "good dog" when he doesn't alert, the dog will alert whenever it thinks the cop wants him to. The cop may not even be aware he's doing it.

See Clever Hans. And dogs are far more attuned to unconscious human cues than horses are.

This means that if a cop thinks you might have money, all he has to do is call the K-9 unit so their dog can alert and provide probable cause to search the car.

There's a reason the Founding Fathers (and English law) insist on "innocent until proven guilty." The government has the resources to prove guilt. Most people do not have the resources to prove their innocence.

There are simple solutions to the problem. The simplest one would be, do not allow departments to seize money on their own behalf. Have them turn it over to the state government. Then there would be no incentive to seize money just because it's there.

Or, provide a "sunset" period, after which, if the state has not filed related charges, the property automatically reverts to its owner.

Or, establish "innocent until proven guilty" for possessions as well. Time is money, after all.
posted by musofire at 2:08 PM on September 7, 2014 [35 favorites]


Nah. There is at least some concern about large police brutality settlements from police management, while police unions only care about keeping murderers on the force. In particular, police unions won't protect police whistleblowers because the whistleblower is only one cop whose dumping many cops in hot water.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:10 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


What's not mentioned in this article is how easy it is to get a police dog to alert. Dogs respond to the cues their guardians give. If the guardian rewards the dog for alerting whenever the dog handler behaves a certain way (i.e. is tense), then the dog will alert whenever its handler behaves that way.

It's also probably related to how a lot of US money has traces of cocaine on it due to contact either directly with the drug or from contact with other contaminated bills.
posted by hippybear at 2:13 PM on September 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


The cop may not even be aware he's doing it.

That is laughable. The point of K9 units is to do an end run around probable cause.

I do not doubt the dogs capabilities - hell, I work with hunting dogs and a well trained dog is a sight to behold.

But, the dogs will do what the handler tells them to do and as it turns out, the handler would really like to toss every car he comes upon.

I saw an episode of cops where they were working with a K9 unit. They had a few hundred dollars they collected of some dude that got popped for DUI. The cop explained that if that money had drugs on it, the cops could keep it. So, to test he hid it in the gas door, and got the dog. He walked around the car pointing to places and the dog would sniff. When he pointed to the gas door, the dog sniffed and voila! He found the drug money! It was like a Christmas miracle.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:15 PM on September 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


That's sorta the point of a union. Due process.

At this point I'm basically OK with reversing the usual presumption of innocence when it comes to cops. They should be considered dirty unless proven clean.
posted by PMdixon at 2:21 PM on September 7, 2014


At this point I'm basically OK with reversing the usual presumption of innocence when it comes to cops. They should be considered dirty unless proven clean.

Then you shouldn't be shocked that they too want to reverse the presumption as well.
posted by srboisvert at 2:27 PM on September 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


It's not police unions that are dedicated to protecting the bad cops. It's police. They are indoctrinated from Day One: We are the Thin Blue Line between chaos and order, and civilians don't understand what we do, and if one of your Brothers In Blue occasionally steps over the line, well, the other guy was bad anyway, and hey, don't you make mistakes every now and then? Well, that's all this was, was a mistake, and you know how much stress you're under and imagine how much stress that cop is under, so clearly, he's not really a racist thug, he just had a bad day, so shut up and don't tell anyone about this, especially IA, because they're traitors and not real cops, and lawyers? Ugh, don't get us fuckin' started on the lawyers, all more interested in undoing your good collars than real justice, so don't talk to them either.

Unions are parallel to the problem. They're not the problem.
posted by Etrigan at 2:29 PM on September 7, 2014 [25 favorites]


Then you shouldn't be shocked that they too want to reverse the presumption as well.

Pretty sure they already did that fairly effectively. Or did you miss the link in the OP?
posted by PMdixon at 2:33 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was reading about a place down in east texas where they actually stole a crucifix from around a woman's neck. These bandits are just despicable and congress does nothing.
posted by Iron Rat at 2:46 PM on September 7, 2014


This is something that really needs Congressional action.
Even without Congressional action, the 7th, 8th, and 14th Amendments are just kind of sitting there; you'd think at some point the judicial or executive branches might choose to enforce them.
posted by roystgnr at 2:50 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is something that really needs Congressional action

Congressional action got us here in the first place, no? Put not your faith in princes. (Which, granted, doesn't leave us much in the material world besides revolution.)

voila! He found the drug money!

But of course. Most US money is druggy money
posted by IndigoJones at 2:51 PM on September 7, 2014


It's hardly new or unwritten about either. Why this hasn't been dealt with yet is a mystery since it pushes the button of multiple constituencies. What incentive do police have to actually enforce laws that prevent crime if you they instead show up and seize a few million dollars worth of land on a hunch?
posted by Winnemac at 2:55 PM on September 7, 2014


Trade unions have, historically, often been reactionary in political terms. They have no interest beyond the narrow purview of serving the members of their trade.

It is, in part, a holdover from earlier forms of organization among workers (i.e., guilds). To show interest in someone doing or being something other than what you are doing or being is a more modern phenomena among workers, occurring from the 1930s on up.

Excepting, of course, the Odd Fellows.
posted by jammy at 2:58 PM on September 7, 2014


> At this point I'm basically OK with reversing the usual presumption of innocence when it comes to cops. They should be considered dirty unless proven clean.

> Then you shouldn't be shocked that they too want to reverse the presumption as well.


I completely disagree. There is plenty of evidence to point to the fact that police organizations in the US are overwhelmingly corrupt and very little evidence pointing the fact that most of the rest of us are criminals.
posted by jammy at 3:01 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's a good thing we can smash those dastardly unions then

Otherwise this might've been a big problem
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:02 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why this hasn't been dealt with yet is a mystery since it pushes the button of multiple constituencies.

Because none of those constituencies are rich or white.
posted by PMdixon at 3:14 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Eliminating police unions will make if far easier for management to remove the few good cops from the force.
posted by Thorzdad


Unions make it hard to get rid of cops.

That is both feature and bug. It makes it hard to get rid of bad cops, but it also protects good cops from the whims of the politicians that lead them. ...
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt




Police unions don't do shit to protect good cops; check out the case of Adrian Schoolcraft:
By the end of his 31 October [2009] shift, Schoolcraft felt sick and intimidated. With permission from Huffman, he left the station an hour early, went home, took some Nyquil, and fell asleep.[3][12] At 6 PM, his father called with a warning message. He looked out the window and saw police massing in the street. He stayed on the phone. After 9 PM, he heard people moving upstairs. The officers obtained a key to the apartment after telling the landlord that Schoolcraft was suicidal.[3][13]

Schoolcraft turned on two tape recorders before the officers entered, and the subsequent interaction was recorded. About twelve high-ranking officers were present. Schoolcraft was interrogated by Deputy Chief Michael Marino, who asked: "Adrian ... you didn't hear us knocking on that door?" Schoolcraft said no and after further questions said, "Chief, if you were woken up in your house how would you behave? What is this, Russia?" The two argued about whether Schoolcraft's early departure from the station was authorized, and whether he would return to the station with the team.[3]

Schoolcraft agreed to check into a nearby hospital (Forest Hills) for high blood pressure. When paramedics said they were taking him to Jamaica Hospital, he said he was refusing medical attention ("RMA"). Marino said:

"Listen to me, they are going to treat you like an EDP [emotionally disturbed person]. Now, you have a choice. You get up like a man and put your shoes on and walk into that bus, or they're going to treat you as an EDP and that means handcuffs."[3]

Marino eventually ordered, "Just take him. I can't f------ stand him anymore."[2] The police found and confiscated one tape recorder, but the other one kept rolling.[3]

Schoolcraft was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward in Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. He was handcuffed tightly to a bed and prevented from using a telephone, by orders of police who were present. An officer told the hospital that police had "followed him home and he had barricaded himself, and the door had to be broken to get to him."[3]

Schoolcraft's father eventually located and retrieved his son [after six days]. The family received a medical bill of $7,185.[12][14]

The hospital's report states:
"He is coherent, relevant with goal directed speech and good eye contact. ... His memory and concentration is intact. He is alert and oriented" but "his insight and judgment are impaired".[12] The report also says: "He expressed questionable paranoid ideas of conspiracy and cover-ups going [on] in the precinct. Since then, he started collecting 'evidence' to 'prove his point' and became suspicious 'They are after him.'"[15]
After discharge, Schoolcraft was suspended from the force and stopped receiving a paycheck. Police officers visited his house regularly in the following weeks.[3] ...
posted by jamjam at 3:17 PM on September 7, 2014 [43 favorites]


Even without unions, it is more difficult for the US government to fire an employee, due to the protections in the constitution.
posted by smackfu at 3:20 PM on September 7, 2014


But that has nothing to do with the police unions, who are largely a problem because they defend murderers and thieves on the police force as policy. I could care less about police salaries. I'd happily pay twice or three times as much for cops that don't murder and steal from people.


Yep. General professionalization of policing, and a transformation of police unions into a professional association with higher standards for entry, higher standards of conduct for continued employment and advancement, and higher salaries.
posted by weston at 3:23 PM on September 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


No one here actually, truly believes getting rid of police unions would do anything to curtail the use and abuse of forfeiture laws, right?
posted by Thorzdad at 3:24 PM on September 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


[M]ost of the time the innocent people being attacked by the power structure simply give up when faced with the nightmarish monstrosity that is the modern legal system.

True. But with as often as this happens, sooner or later they'll run across a Timothy McVeigh-type who gets pissed off about things and doesn't just give up.

Timothy McVeigh was angry about the ATF because he believed that they had killed a few dozen people at the Branch Davidian compound, and in return, he destroyed a federal building, killing over 150 people.

Imagine what he'd have done if the ATF, FBI, or some other law enforcement agency had personally taken $100k or so from him.
posted by Hatashran at 3:24 PM on September 7, 2014


A friend used to promote raves back in the early 90s out in the California desert. The local cops eventually caught wind of it and were stopping and searching cars heading back home in the early morning hours. Many of the kids, coming down off their ecstasy highs, were happy to lose whatever cash they had with them instead of going to jail. My friend too was stopped by the cops. Unfortunately he was traveling back with the revenue, $60K in cash. He had to let the cops take the money because, well, illegal raves in the desert are just that, illegal. The way he describes it, the worst part was that they acted as if they were doing him a favor by letting him go.
posted by cazoo at 3:29 PM on September 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


No one here actually, truly believes getting rid of police unions would do anything to curtail the use and abuse of forfeiture laws, right?

Right. You don't just need to get rid of the cop unions; the entire police infrastructure as currently constituted need to be dismantled and replaced by institutions that are radically different.
posted by graymouser at 3:31 PM on September 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


It's true that de-unionizing police forces is unlikely to do much of anything to reduce corruption and brutality, but it is also true that corrupt and brutal police use police unions as an instrument with which to shield themselves from professional or legal consequences and to frustrate legal and political remedies to police brutality and corruption.

The police have a strange sort of relationship to American organized labor because of their enforcement powers and because of their history as an instrument of union-busting in other professions. Things that look like sensible workforce protections in most other professions also become complicated when applied to police, for whom professional misconduct is often directly tied up with criminal law.

In any other situation, a union would be foolish to accept, say, binding arbitration from an outside party in cases related to a member's continued employment. But in the case of a police union, that principle means the union should oppose things like civilian oversight boards or other extra-departmental entities with the power to fire or suspend officers for misconduct.

And as we see with the notorious example of the California prison guards' union and their lobbying for tougher sentencing and mandatory sentencing, there are perverse incentives to financially support the expansion of effectively racist, classist policies that harm the rest of society because it is in the enforcement arm's financial interest. What present-day police union, if it truly serves its members' interests, would not donate and lobby on behalf of these forfeiture laws?

A good police force would need and deserve a strong union, but a corrupt police force simply results in a union that extends and fosters that corruption by normalizing and legalizing it. With that in mind, I think that the solution will have to come from a broader cultural shift in perceptions of the police, and from there a movement towards things like community policing, stricter scrutiny of not only police but also prosecutors, and probably a deep change in public beliefs about crime and especially to the prosecution of crimes.

But I have no real idea how that happens, and little belief that in the short term it is even a remote possibility.
posted by kewb at 3:34 PM on September 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Imagine what he'd have done if the ATF, FBI, or some other law enforcement agency had personally taken $100k or so from him.

Given that his response to the FBI was to blow up a federal building full of bureaucrats and administrative staff that also contained a daycare, I imagine he'd have done something equally stupid and destructive to a similarly "soft" target and irrevocably tarnish whatever he imagined his cause to be.
posted by kewb at 3:37 PM on September 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is part of a larger trend in the US (and elsewhere) to try to use civil penalties to get around the "inconvenience" of criminal due process.

So we have aggressive civil forfeiture of "drug money", made even easier than it was under the common law... and intentionally used as a surrogate for criminal punishment, which is not what it was for under the common law.

And it's spread beyond that. We have ridiculous statutory damages for all kinds of things... like "damages" for making a copy of a pop song set at $150,000. The stated reason for that one is that violators are so unlikely to get caught that they need disproportionate disincentives. Well, the civilized among us have another word for that kind of disincentive. We call it a "criminal fine". For this one, we also get the nice bonus of the money going directly to what amount to private bounty hunters.

In every meaningful way, and especially in their intended purpose, these applications of "civil" law are criminal sanctions. And that means they need criminal due process and a criminal standard of proof. It's clearly unconstitutional to deny that due process, which means it is clearly unconstitutional to grab money from people until they have been not just criminally charged, but proven and found guilty.

Any court that wasn't completely supine would find that obvious. Any legislator who encourages it should be drummed out of office and treated as a pariah for life. And any law enforcement officer who participates should be permanently out of a job.
posted by Hizonner at 3:57 PM on September 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


I don't know why people in here think this can be solved through the courts, the supremes had already come out in favor of it, way back in Rehnquist's day.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 4:00 PM on September 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


civilians don't understand what we do

I know what you're saying, and in somebody else's voice, but I'd just like to remind everybody that the vast majority of police are civilians. Civilian means non-military and most police are not also in the military. I realize this may seem like a small thing, but given the increasing militarization of police forces it's important to not let this linguistic trick slide.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 4:03 PM on September 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


Ahem Nevercalm, you forgot us teachers.
posted by wester at 4:17 PM on September 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I know what you're saying, and in somebody else's voice, but I'd just like to remind everybody that the vast majority of police are civilians. Civilian means non-military and most police are not also in the military.

civilian:
1. a person who is not on active duty with a military, naval, police, or fire fighting organization.
2. Informal. anyone regarded by members of a profession, interest group, society, etc., as not belonging; nonprofessional; outsider:
civilian:
a person who is not a member of the military or of a police or firefighting force
civilian:
a person who is not a member of the police, the armed forces, or a fire department:
civilian:
a person who is not a member of the police or the armed forces:
You can fight it, but you might as well be arguing against split infinitives. Yes, in military use, "civilian" includes "non-military police," but to pretty much everyone else, police or not, that isn't the case.
posted by Etrigan at 4:30 PM on September 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


While driving through Texas, I was stopped at an internal checkpoint. The federal officers asked if I had any contraband, including drugs or US currency. I did have a fair amount of cash, but I knew they would likely steal it from me, so I lied and said I just had the $50 in my wallet.

I'm well past trusting any cop, or even the government as a whole. I mean, why would I?
posted by ryanrs at 5:12 PM on September 7, 2014


In my search for the answer to the question, "Is there anyplace in the U.S. where people can actually live anymore?" I found this:

“Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture,” Marian R. Williams, Ph.D., et al., Institute for Justice, March 2010

Also the website for the Forfeiture Endangers American Rights Foundation and the ACLU page on the topic.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:37 PM on September 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Huh, perhaps liquid assets ($$$ jewelry electronics) were what the WA State patrol were looking for when both drugs and explosives K9 teams "alerted" to my VW Vanagon Westfalia camper (ie, neither a hippie bus nor a wealthy retiree's travel toy). I was in line for a ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island (a Seattle suburb on the west side of Puget Sound) when the routine stroll patrol by my VW became a frenzied knot of WA State troopers and Homeland Security goons. Since I wanted to get on the scheduled ferry and knew nothing interesting was on board, I said sure, look at whatever you want and opened the many areas to be opened in a camper with built-in cabinetry. Dogs did their signalling in the oil/antifreeze/spare parts shelves and the rear seat upholstery/carpeting.

Apparently the explosives K9 freaked out on my marker flares and something... druglike, probably weed, was in the carpeting, but they couldn't get a positive swab.

I was forced against the outside of my own car while I watched the cops pull on handfuls of 30 year old wiring under the dash and around the engine. They body-searched me and dumped the contents of my wallet on the floor of the van. I had no cash, and no jewelry because I was going to help a friend move and didn't want it catching on anything. My only electronics were my cell phone. I had removed all the tools to lighten the van for load I was headed to pick up.

Eventually the State patrol guys said I could go, but of course the van wouldn't start due to the ravaged wiring. So the cops/DHS gathered around again and threatened to arrest me and confiscate the van if I continued to obstruct ferry traffic.

Did I mention my disabled parking placard was hanging from the rear-view mirror the whole time?

I guess I was meant to be an example to the other folks waiting in line for the boat. That the state and federal governments are free to interfere with, damage, and terrorize even disabled middle-aged middle-class white Jewish women (for various definitions of "woman" - I'm very butch/genderqueer).

Oh, I managed, with little more than a leatherman tool and some electrical tape, to hot-wire the van and get it to Bainbridge and back. Still has starting problems years later, although I just did a lot of rewiring which will hopefully cure that.
posted by Dreidl at 7:48 PM on September 7, 2014 [34 favorites]


Yeah, if you give them permission they will tear apart your car. Of course they might do it anyway, but giving permission is just asking to have all your shit thrown out on the side of the road.

I wish I was joking.
posted by ryanrs at 8:06 PM on September 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


Putting police unions in the cross hairs is really misguided. It's all about the Drug War. It's all about the Drug War. It's all about the Drug War.

Stop the Drug War, and you defang--to an extent--the power and overreach that cops have. That's the first, necessary step.
posted by zardoz at 8:23 PM on September 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


I was in line for a ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island (a Seattle suburb on the west side of Puget Sound) when the routine stroll patrol by my VW became a frenzied knot of WA State troopers and Homeland Security goons.

Man, fuck these cocks. I feel like it's even an insult to cocks to call them cocks, whether you're talking about penii or chickens.

It's a really long story, but basically they decided to "detain" the center rows on the ferry which included the vehicle i was in. I didn't hear the announcement above the level of the music playing quietly on my friends car stereo, which was over a megaphone or something and not the voice-of-god volume of the "WELCOME TO THE WASHINGTON STATE FERRIES" thing over the ships PA.

So after sitting for like a half hour i'm about to piss my pants, and i decide to just get out and walk upstairs since while we are at the dock, the "fence" is closed and such and i figured there was some kind of mechanical problem with the dock(which if you've rode the ferry more than a few times, is A Thing).

I get halfway up the stairs, and BAM. Gun pointed in my face, gun pointed at my back. One of the guys wasn't in uniform, too.

Got questioned for like a fucking half hour, and was NEVER allowed to go to the bathroom. Sat in the car for another 20 minutes or so too before we even got to leave.

The entire thing was fucking dumb, and they acted like i was either a terrorist trying to blow up the ferry or some drug lord trying to flush his stash the entire time. Even though they didn't want to search me, or my car. It was total catch 22 garbage. I was like "i'm in a band, we were going to play a show that got cancelled. if you search the car you'll find a PA, music stuff, and a bunch of unopened beers. what do you want from me?"

My friend in the car behind me got arrested because after watching the whole thing, when non-uniform cop walked up to him and asked him to step out of the car he said "fuck you". I mean on one hand, yea, dumb, but on the other hand i kinda understood where he was coming from(and he's an asshole, anyways).

I still to this day have no idea why they made us all sit on the ferry for hours.

Eventually the State patrol guys said I could go, but of course the van wouldn't start due to the ravaged wiring. So the cops/DHS gathered around again and threatened to arrest me and confiscate the van if I continued to obstruct ferry traffic.

This is such catch 22 bullshit cop logic i can't even. "I broke it, and now you're breaking the law by it being broken!". Christing fuck.
posted by emptythought at 9:59 PM on September 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


I'm really surprise that this hasn't been posted yet. The Bad Kind of Unionism, from Jacobin Magazine.
posted by Octaviuz at 5:40 AM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


Putting police unions in the cross hairs is really misguided. It's all about the Drug War. It's all about the Drug War. It's all about the Drug War.

The police unions support the drug war.
posted by empath at 10:09 AM on September 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


empath--yes, of course the police unions support the drug war. But unions are important for *everyone*, even, yes, cops. Once you start cherry picking which unions are good and which are bad...that way is most definitely a slippery slope.

My point is that cops' (and their unions') power comes in large part from the drug war. Passing legislation at the local, state, and federal level is what needs to happen. A high bar, to be sure, but the public support is already here. It's a matter of putting politicians in tight spot so that going against the various tentacles that support the drug war is a loser for them, personally. It'll take time, but I see the drug war downsized considerably in the coming decades.
posted by zardoz at 4:30 PM on September 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Very nice links empath and Octaviuz, thanks!
posted by jeffburdges at 5:06 PM on September 8, 2014










Oklahoma Sheriff Accused Of Keeping Extensive Database On Citizens
In a statement announcing the lawsuit, the ACLU claims it discovered Black Asphalt during an investigation of Desert Snow employees impersonating police officers in Caddo County in 2013, "as part of a scheme with the local district attorney to make traffic stops, seize cash and property from citizens, and funnel it into local coffers in exchange for a percentage of the profits."
posted by homunculus at 6:45 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


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