Though we should all stand behind police officers as individuals, policing in this country, on a policy level, has become far-too corrupt as it turns towards revenue-generating efforts. Fines that were once meant to discourage behaviors are now used to generate revenue for small towns reliant upon “speed traps” and out-of-towners who cannot or will not fight traffic tickets.
On a federal level, we can see the inherent abuse present in asset forfeiture policies. Such policies that allow federal bureaus to seize banks accounts, houses, cars and other assets operate opposite of our Constitutional premise of due process.
By seizing property before having been found guilty of any crime, police are operating under a pretense of “guilty until found innocent,” an exact inversion of our constitutional rights.
While the goal is laudable- making sure that criminals cannot set themselves free using the fruits of their nefarious endeavors- any who support the Constitution should vehemently reject this premise.
Now, as if asset forfeiture laws were not egregious enough, police are now being equipped with the capability of stealing money from citizens on the spot without any oversight or even without filing criminal charges.
It sounds like something that could never happen in America, but it’s happening right now.
Law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma have already begun using special devices that allows police to swipe a prepaid card and access the account and the money therein.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) has already rolled-out 16 Electronic Recovery and Access to Data Machines, known by the acronym ERAD, in May.
One contract obtained by Oklahoma Watch states that the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety will pay ERAD Group $5,000 for implementation and $1,500 for training on how to use the devices. In addition, ERAD Group will also receive a “processing fee”of 7.7% of all money seized using the readers. That incentive to seize also mimics Oklahoma law, which allows police and prosecutors to keep up to 100% of the proceeds from forfeited property, even if the owner was never convicted or indicted. Records obtained by the Institute for Justice show that in 2012, 70% of all forfeiture expenditures in Oklahoma funded salaries for law enforcement….
ERAD devices originated with a “prime development contract” awarded by the Department of Homeland Security, which claimed drug runners and couriers were increasingly turning to prepaid cards as an alternative to transporting cash. According toERAD Group:
Even with probable cause, [customs officials] had no way of identifying the card value, freezing the funds or seizing the money at the point of arrest. ERAD-Prepaid™ solved that problem by condensing a process that takes many days, weeks or months into one that takes a few seconds…
A presentation by ERAD Group President T. Jack Williams even claimed that “individuals do not have privacy rights with magnetic stripe cards” and that a police scan of those cards “does not violate an individual’s fourth amendment rights.”
According to OHP, the devices have not yet been used to seize money. However, OHP officials appear to be gearing-up for the inevitable literal highway robbery.
“We’re gonna look for different factors in the way that you’re acting,” Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. John Vincent told local News 9. “We’re gonna look for if there’s a difference in your story. If there’s some way that we can prove that you’re falsifying information to us about your business.”
“If you can prove that you have a legitimate reason to have that money it will be given back to you. And we’ve done that in the past,” Vincent assured.
To summarize: Oklahoma now has armed men and women encountering citizens, seizing their money and declaring that if these uncharged individuals can demonstrate a good reason why they should have their money, they may receive it back.
So, armed people can stop citizens, steal their money without providing due process and this is different from armed robbery how, exactly?
That this could happen in America is astonishing and very frightening.