Oklahoma police department has quietly siphoned 25 per cent of all funds collected from traffic tickets to a private firm, while also allowing private contractors to pose as police officers, the American Civil Liberties Union has claimed.
In a letter sent to Caddo County District Attorney Jason Hicks,
the ACLU is asking him to request the Oklahoma State Bureau of
Investigation begin an inquiry into the conduct of his own
Hicks hired Desert Snow LLC, a private company, in January 2013
to mentor Caddo County’s drug task force for one year. According
to The Oklahoman he agreed to finance the program by paying
Desert Snow with 25 per cent of fees from tickets handed out with
the involvement of the trainers. The company would also be paid
10 per cent of profits collected when company trainers were not
Desert Storm reportedly seized more than $40,000 between January
and July 2, when a judge came forward to suspend Hicks’s program.
In court, Desert Snow founder Joe David testified that he pulled
over a driver despite not having a state license allowing him to
do so. David said he had a gun and may have been wearing a shirt
that read “POLICE” in large lettering across his shoulder blades.
He questioned the driver, a pregnant woman, by himself before her
case was later dismissed.
Civil asset forfeiture laws allow police departments to keep the
profits seized in drug raids. While specific state laws vary,
Oklahoma law enforcement agencies are permitted to hold onto 100
per cent of the profits they take from drug offenders. Then, if
an owner wants to reclaim their property under the current law,
the onus is on them to prove they did not know the property was
being used in connection with an illegal activity.
Desert Storm also received $212,000 alone from a single arrest
seizure in May.
“For people to pull over people on I-40 without that license
is shocking to me,” Caddo County Special Judge David Stephens
said earlier this month.
Hicks said he would look into to task force’s conduct but
stressed that the finance methods are necessary for Caddo County,
which is located to the immediate west of the Greater Oklahoma
City region and had a population of 29,600 people in 2010.
“Yes, it’s unusual, but what we’re doing here is trying to
finance law enforcement on the backs of criminals,” Hicks
previously told The Oklahoman. “At the end of the day, the
money that we’ve taken here has been money that we’ve taken away
from drug traffickers. This is money that we have taken away from
the cartels and are putting it to good use…and I think that’s a
Oklahoma’s ACLU legal director Brady Henderson criticized Hicks
for hiring Desert Snow, asserting that the employees failed to
meet the minimum 600 hours of training.
“Your whims do not trump the duly-enacted laws of the State of
Oklahoma, and neither you nor the counterfeit cops are above the
law,” he wrote, adding that criminal charges are possible in
multiple instances where Oklahomans claim their property was
confiscated when no criminal charges had been filed.
“In several of these cases, law abiding citizens allege that
they were made to sign disclaimers of ownership through coercion,
having been falsely threatened with jail and criminal charges if
they resisted officers’ attempt to take their money,”
Republished from: RT