The Lord Giveth, The Police Taketh Away 

The Lord Giveth, The Police Taketh Away 
Posted by FoM on September 21, 2000 at 07:12:36 PT
By Joel Miller
Source: WorldNetDaily
It's a short drive between Oakland and San Francisco, Calif. -- unless you don't have a car. And, not entirely coincidentally, if you're looking to lose one, the Oakland police can certainly oblige; the same will go for the city across the Bay if a town elder at the Golden Gates gets his way. As currently allowed by Oakland city ordinance, if a john or junkie prowls the streets in search of a fix, the police can not only arrest the offender but take his car, too. 
Police, according to the Sept. 18 San Francisco Chronicle, "conduct their car seizure operations, called 'Operation Beat Feet,' in various neighborhoods about twice a month. About 80 percent of the cars seized belong to alleged drug buyers, and the rest to alleged johns." Following the lead of Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, across the Bay another Brown is recommending a similar course of action. Citing people's "right to peace, tranquility and safety in their neighborhoods," San Francisco Supervisor Amos Brown wants cars used in drug buys to be labeled "public nuisances" and subject to confiscation and sale. How much of a public nuisance are these cars? Brown, who is also a Baptist minister, likens the cars of drug users and sellers to the chariots of Pharaoh's army. And his proposed ordinance? According to the Chronicle, Brown compares his plan to God knocking the wheels off Pharaoh's chariots. "Removing the transportation of evildoers also helps stop evil, Brown said." Frisco car filchers are excited about the possibility of approval for the plan. The proposal cleared a major obstacle Tuesday when the city's Housing and Social Policy Committee voted -- without actually taking a position on the measure -- to send the legislation to the Board of Supervisors for consideration next week. I guess the cops and city-government Pooh-Bahs figure as long as we're scrapping the Fourth Amendment, we might as well get a good start on the Fifth. Most people think the Fifth Amendment means you don't have to tell the jury you robbed the pizza deliveryman or embezzled all that money from your uncle's carpet cleaning company. True. We've seen enough Perry Mason episodes and Clinton-scandal grand jury appearances to know the line: "I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might incriminate me." And while "weasel protection" is covered in the Fifth, so is another vital protection -- the takings clause: No person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation. Notice how that never says, "Unless we're talking drugs; in which case, the cops can take whatever they want." That, however, is certainly how law enforcement seems to read the amendment. Just last month, Aug. 21, city councilors in Albuquerque, N.M., extended to police the right to seize the homes of parents whose children host beer bashes or pinch dad's Jim Beam for drunken revelries. "Underage drinking is a big problem," said the city councilor who sponsored the measure. "If there's anything we can do to curb this phenomenon in our community, we should do it." Even if it means wearing out a pencil-top eraser on the Constitution? Of course. We've got to stop the scourge of illegal doping and underage boozing, and, as the aforequoted Albuquerque councilman so eloquently points out, "This gives us a hammer." It's one of those situations where the Fifth Amendment is now void where prohibited by law. Undoubtedly, the current seizure-fever mentality of police at all levels of American government can be traced back to Reagan's war on drugs in the '80s. "Conservatives did not realize that the main result of their efforts would be the routine confiscation of the assets of the innocent," Paul Craig Roberts explains in his Sept. 14 Creators Syndicate column. "Frustrated by the difficulty of deterring drug trafficking, conservatives decided that suppressing the drug trade was more important than the U.S. Constitution." How so? The federal Comprehensive Forfeiture Act of 1984 paved the way for government seizure of any property connected to a drug crime -- a drug dealer's car, a buyer's house, whatever. "The confiscation," explains Roberts, "is permitted regardless of whether the owner participated in illegal drug activity or was aware that others had brought drugs to his property. Moreover, no proof is needed. To seize property, law-enforcement officials need only claim 'probable cause' for their discretionary actions." And you can blow Lady Justice a kiss goodbye on ever getting any. With federal forfeiture greatly expanding ever since 1984 (some 140 other federal statutes now qualify for a state snatch in case of lawbreaking), justice is getting the middle finger. "Property is being seized without a hearing, and people can permanently lose their cars without ever being convicted of a crime," says American Civil Liberties Union attorney Alan Schlosser about Oakland's car-nabbing policy. "There's no presumption of innocence, so the burden is on you." And what about all that due process and Fifth-Amendment guaranteed "just compensation"? Keep dreaming. According to the July 25 Fresno Bee, the First District Court of Appeals ruled Oakland's ordinance constitutionally kosher; neither, according to the court, does it violate any state law. Unless the State Supreme Court hears the appeal, you'd better plan on driving a rental next time you visit the city. As of July, Oakland had confiscated 350 cars and auctioned off more than 280 of them. Worse yet, think of this: Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., points out that in 80 percent of asset forfeiture cases, no charges are filed against those whose property is confiscated -- and the cops get to keep the stuff they filch. Seizure victims must sue the government to get back their possessions, something most people cannot afford to do. In other words, you could be entirely innocent but still unable to get justice. Maybe not all, but few people can afford to fight city hall. And those that can suffer as well. Eric Kinney's car was nabbed when he was caught in a 1999 sting operation, allegedly trying to score two grams of ganja. Oakland police seized his 1989 Ford Ranger on the spot; the vehicle was worth about $5,000. According to the Sept. 20 San Francisco Examiner, he eventually got his truck returned to the tune of $2 grand in legal fees. "This was very traumatic," recounted Kinney. What's more, he was never convicted. Given the rewards, it should surprise no one that government will vigorously defend its confiscations. After going through the proper channels, money seized often makes its way back into the police budget; it can be a considerable boon for the city purse. While an Oakland official tries to reassure that car-snatching "is not a big moneymaker for us," the city has still raked in some $321,000 since the program started in 1997. Not bad for a small moneymaker. Other scores are still far more profitable. In 1998, Ohio State Highway patrolmen stopped a car for speeding and got plenty more than the paltry ticket revenue. After searching the vehicle, police discovered marijuana seed and $150,000. Ever-dutiful, the patrolmen turned the money over to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. The DEA kept less than $30 grand and sent the rest back to the Ohio State Highway Patrol -- net profit of more than $120,000 for pulling over a single car. Not bad for a day's work. There are more than a few problems here, however. "Police have become addicted to seizure money," according to Hoover Institution scholar Joseph McNamara, also the former police chief of both Kansas City and San Jose. Kind of a perverse incentive -- seize a car, cash or house and keep them for the department. Even with recent changes in federal law, local governments stand to prosper greatly from forfeiture, regardless of the guilt of the suspect. But, beyond being used to bolster policing budgets, drug dough sometimes goes to completely ridiculous items, as well. A state audit in Kansas recently turned up record of forfeiture money going toward crayons and coloring books for a drug education program; several hundred dollars, according to the Sept. 18 Kansas City Star, actually went to purchase a remote-control door opener for a police dog. Might as well let the mutt pee on James Madison's pant leg. And abuse, as usual, is not unheard of. "One agency actually had disposed of drug money before a judge declared it legally confiscated," reports Karen Dillon in the Sept. 18 Star. "Another agency improperly deposited state and federal money into a local bank account instead of its law enforcement trust fund, as the law requires." "It is very sad," says McNamara, "and very dangerous to civil liberties." Think back to Esau trading his birthright to his brother Jacob for a mess of porridge. That's what conservatives have done. Faced with the immediate concern of solving America's drug problems, conservatives traded the Constitution -- with its glorious protections, its cherished role in our history and tradition of defending individual rights and liberties -- for drug-control policies that have gone sour in our mouths, turned freedom to tyranny and destroyed the Bill of Rights. Though, thank the Lord, unlike Esau, America may still be able to regain its birthright. To do so, however, will require that we dump this bowl of pork 'n' beans we've traded for the Constitution and begin working toward ending our liberty-squelching war on drugs. Direct Link To: The Lord Giveth, The Police Taketh Away Joel MillerManaging EditorWorldNetDaily Publishinghttp://www.WND.comWeb Posted: September 21, 2000Source: WorldNetDaily (US Web)Author: Joel MillerCopyright: 2000,, Inc.Contact: letters worldnetdaily.comAddress: PO Box 409, Cave Junction, OR 97523-0409Fax: (541) 597-1700Website: Articles & Web Site:Forfeiture Endangers Americans Rights: Impound Law Goes To Board To Consider Seizing Cars of Drug, Sex Clients Court Affirms Oakland Vehicle Forfeiture CannabisNews Articles - Joel Miller 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #3 posted by Dan Hillman on September 23, 2000 at 12:38:17 PT
by the way: Oakland postscript
Chief to investigate, push reforms By Matthew D. LaPlante CORRESPONDENT OAKLAND (Sept 23, 2000)-- Responding to allegations of misconduct by four ofhis officers, Police Chief Richard Word said Friday he is taking immediate steps to prevent future abuses. Appearing pensive, Word told a roomful of reporters that allegations of officers beating suspects,planting evidence and falsifying documents "has caused me profound distress, both professionally andpersonally." The department, he said, "has moved swiftly to initiate a thorough and impartial investigation of theincidents and the officers involved." The four unnamed officers, who were placed on administrative leave soon after the allegations came tolight in early July, worked late-night shifts in West Oakland. The officers, who have from two to 12 years on the department, have refused to cooperate with Internal Affairs investigators. The four are also under criminal investigation by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office. Sources said there were fewer than a dozen incidents between mid-June and early July, many involving narcotics-relatedarrests. The investigation began in early July at the prompting of a rookie police officer who has since resigned. "I admire this individual for having the courage to come forward," Word said. Word said he constantly tells officers "to stress the importance of maintaining the highest level of professional conduct." In the light of the allegations "and in order to reduce the possibility that anything like what has been alleged could ever recur," he has established several other initiatives, Word said. One is to reassign a police captain to his office to serve as internal auditor to scrutinize the performance and practices of the department.The department will also broaden its early-warning system to monitor not only individual officer performance, but also the performance and behavior of department units so that potential problems can be recognized early and dealt with. In addition, the department is providing training to its more than 700 officers to give them insight into internal affairs investigations and what lessons can be learned from them. He also said other initiatives would be announced following completion of the investigation. Word denied that department pressure may have contributed to the alleged incidents. "The actions reflected in the allegations, if they occurred, did not come from the pressure of me or the command staff," Word said. "We don't tolerate that." He refused to draw comparisons to the corruption scandal in Los Angeles, where abuses by officers assigned to the Rampart Division have caused more than 100 convictions to be overturned, and severed community-police relations. Word stressed he has a good department and that he is proud of the accomplishments of its officers. "Crime is down, community policing is working in Oakland, and we are developing strong connections with the residents of our neighborhoods to solve their concerns about crime, fear and disorder," he said. By far the gravest allegation is that the four officers, who called themselves "The Riders," beat a suspect during an arrest. Twoof the officers later allegedly drove the suspect to a remote location where he was handcuffed and beaten again, sources said. Other allegations include the officers claiming that suspects had drugs in their possession when they did not, and giving narcotics to informants as payment for information. After the press conference, a representative of a police watchdog organization said he was surprised that the department was openly addressing the allegations. Cameron Yee, of People United for a Better Oakland, said that allegations of police misconduct in Oakland often go unheard. Some Oakland residents in attendance, who claimed either to have been the victims of police conduct or to have relatives who were, echoed Yee.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by Dan Hillman on September 22, 2000 at 12:21:07 PT
instructions for scoring in Oakland
> As currently allowed by Oakland city ordinance, if a john or junkie prowls the streets in search of a fix, the police can not only arrest the offenderbut take his car, too. Note that police will leave you alone if you aren't driving! Walk, ride a bike, or take a cab if you are going to try to score illicit substances in Oakland...Bottom line: the cops want to steal your car. They couldn't care less about anything else.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by observer on September 21, 2000 at 10:12:25 PT
Drug War Salient in Attack on Rights
Yet another excellent piece by Joel Miller! Fine work, as always.
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: