HIGHWAY ROBBERY: Civil Forfeiture Allows Police To Extort Thousands From Innocent Americans

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According to an investigative report  by NewsChannel 5, George Reby was driving along Route 40 in Putnam County, Tennessee when he was pulled over by a Monterey police officer for speeding.”Do you mind if I search your vehicle,” the officer asked.

Knowing that he had not been speeding, let alone carrying anything illegal, Reby let the officer search away.

It just so happened that Reby, a New Jersey native, was carrying $22,000 in his car at the time, not uncommon for a professional insurance adjuster like himself.

Larry Bates, the police officer, seized the cash on suspicion that it was drug money and fled.

The Nashville CBS affiliate, broke the story — one of the latest of these law enforcement abuses deemed “policing for profit.”

When asked why he never arrested Reby, Bates responded that, “he hadn’t committed a criminal law.”

The state of Tennessee returned Reby’s money four months later, a result of the NewsChannel 5 investigation — forcing Reby to travel all the way from his New Jersey home back to Monterey. The only condition: Reby would have to sign a statement waiving his constitutional rights, promising not to sue.

And Reby was fortunate. In other cases in Tennessee, victims have had to wait until the police officers drop their case, usually extorting a cut of the seized cash. Some state lawmakers have attempted to investigate “policing for profit,” says NewsChannel 5.

Tennessee isn’t alone. In The Huffington Post, Radley Balko writes of similar police corruption in Wisconsin:

When the Brown County, Wis., Drug Task Force arrested her son Joel last February, Beverly Greer started piecing together his bail.

She used part of her disability payment and her tax return. Joel Greer’s wife also chipped in, as did his brother and two sisters. On Feb. 29, a judge set Greer’s bail at $7,500, and his mother called the Brown County jail to see where and how she could get him out. “The police specifically told us to bring cash,” Greer says. “Not a cashier’s check or a credit card. They said cash.”

…The Greers had been subjected to civil asset forfeiture, a policy that lets police confiscate money and property even if they can only loosely connect them to drug activity. The cash, or revenue from the property seized, often goes back to the coffers of the police department that confiscated it.

The practice of seizing property from citizens has grown dramatically in recent years. According to a University of Kentucky study, in 1986, the Department of Justice’s civil forfeiture fund was $94 million. By 2010, it exceeded $1 billion, according to the Department’s own findings

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