You know how in third world countries a bunch of guys with guns will set up on a road and rob every vehicle that comes through? We have that here too, except they’re run by local governments and call themselves the police.
Law enforcement authorities in this East Texas town of 1,000 people seized property from at least 140 motorists between 2006 and 2008, and, to date, filed criminal charges against fewer than half, according to a review of court documents by the San Antonio Express-News.
Virtually anything of value was up for grabs: cash, cell phones, personal jewelry, a pair of sneakers, and often, the very car that was being driven through town.
Linda Dorman, an Akron, Ohio, great-grandmother had $4,000 in cash taken from her by local authorities when she was stopped while driving through town after visiting Houston in April 2007. Court records make no mention that anything illegal was found in her van. She’s still hoping for the return of what she calls “her life savings.”
Dorman’s attorney, David Guillory, calls the roadside stops and seizures in Tenaha “highway piracy,” undertaken by a couple of law enforcement officers whose agencies get to keep most of what was seized.
Guillory is suing officials in Tenaha and Shelby County on behalf of Dorman and nine other clients whose property was confiscated. All were African-Americans driving either rentals or vehicles with out-of-state plates.
At least the Tenaha government is reasonably honest about it:
Tenaha Mayor George Bowers, 80, defended the seizures, saying they allowed a cash-poor city the means to add a second police car in a two-policeman town and help pay for a new police station.
In other words, the Tenaha police are taking money from people to pay themselves, proving once again that the main difference between “armed robbery” and “civil forfeiture” is the spelling.
Meanwhile, seemingly every third police department in the country wants stimulus money to buy weaons. No way that could turn out bad, right?
(Hat tip: Bennettt)