Police in small town Tenaha, Texas, near the Louisiana line, have found a way of turning law enforcement into a lucrative racket. According to a recently filed federal lawsuit, police there routinely stopped passing motorists — the vast majority of them black — and threatened them with felony arrests on charges such as money laundering unless they agreed to sign over their property on the spot.
More than 140 people accepted that Hobson’s choice between June 2006 and June 2008, according to court records cited by the Chicago Tribune, which ran a lengthy article on the practice this week. Among them was a black grandmother who handed over $4,000 in cash and an interracial couple from Houston who handed over $6,000 in cash after police threatened to arrest them and send their children to foster care. Neither the couple nor the grandmother were charged with any crime. The waiver form that the couple signed giving up their rights is particularly chilling. “We agree that this case may be taken up and considered by the Court without further notice to us during this proceeding. In exchange for this agreement, no criminal charges shall be filed on either of us as a result of this case, and our children shall not be turned over to CPS.”
Officials in Tenaha, which sits on a heavily traveled highway between Houston and popular gambling destinations in Louisiana, said they were fighting drug trafficking and were operating in accord with state asset forfeiture law, which allows local police agencies to keep drug money and other goods used in the commission of a crime.
“We try to enforce the law here,” said George Bowers, mayor of the town of 1,046 residents, where boarded-up businesses outnumber open ones and City Hall sports a broken window. “We’re not doing this to raise money. That’s all I’m going to say at this point,” he told the Tribune.
Dr. Angela Davis
Angela Davis speaks on the 40th anniversary of MLK’s death. Davis is professor of history of consciousness and feminist studies at the University of California Santa Cruz. The lecture – “We are Not Now Living the Dream: Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Human Rights in the 21st Century” was given at the Vanderbilt University Law School, April 14, 2008.
Richland County Sheriff LEON LOTT:
Richland County, South Carolina Sheriff Leon Lott
“I had nothing to do with Michael Phelps coming to Columbia and making a bad decision. He did that. His bad decision and the highly published photo placed me and the Richland County Sheriff’s Department in a no win situation. Ignore it and be criticized or address it and be criticized. I chose to do what was right. While to some it may not have been the most popular decision, it was and is the right decision because of the law and the negative impact it could have on our children in Richland County.
Michael Phelps is truly an American sports hero. I, along with the rest of America, cheered his victories and felt pride when he stood on the podium to receive his medals.
Even with his star status he is still obligated to obey the laws of our state. He is not immune from his responsibilities to do what is right. He is also human and can make a mistake.
I took an obligation in my oath as Sheriff to enforce the law equally and fairly without any personal bias or prejudice.
With Michael Phelps I had to remove his medals, his hero status, and look at him as any other person.
I felt it was important that he be treated fairly, equally and that a message be conveyed that illegal drug use is illegal by anyone.
Our investigation focused on the possession, use and distribution of illegal drugs in Richland County. The incident in November only initiated our investigation, which resulted in the arrests of adults who were at the time of their arrests in possession of illegal drugs. Contrary to some, this was not a special investigation or one that impacted our resources on other crimes. This was in fact a short investigation and simple investigation conducted by narcotics investigators whose sole responsibility is to investigate drug violations. The time and resources were quite minimal when compared to other drug investigations. In the time this investigation was being conducted we solved a murder, ATM robberies and numerous other crimes. Continue reading