How to encourage constitutional violations by police officers

Have contests to see who can make the most forfeitures on the highways. Catawba County deputy Dennis Smith in North Carolina, for example, won the American Police Canine Association President’s Award two years in a year after raking in more than $100,000.00 in drugs and cash each year for his department.

Smith got involved in the competition on invitation of the association’s president, Michael Johnson.
Smith said he would send e-mails to the APCA, of which he is a member, about drug busts he and Max had been involved in. Johnson contacted Smith, asking him if he had kept track of how much drugs and cash he and Max had seized. He hadn’t, but he started and sent the result to Johnson — between $120,000 and $130,000 of drugs and cash. That amount won Smith and Max the 2007 award.
They followed that accomplishment with more than $100,000 worth of drugs and cash confiscated for the 2008 award.
“This is such an honor for our department,” Maj. Coy Reid of the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office said. “Especially to get a national award and especially to get it two years in a row.”

The seizure of money on the highways is big business for law enforcement agencies, and has become a large part of some agencies’ budgets. When the goal of some officers is to see how much money they can bring in, and how much recognition they can thereby achieve, rules and the constitution’s safeguards go out the window.
What some officers are doing amounts to little more than highway robbery. Officers study Fourth Amendment law, not to learn how to abide by it, but to learn how to get around it. Blacks and Hispanics are targeted on the interstates, and officers’ testimony is tailored to what they believe will get by a judge in court. I have had an officer and a solicitor tell me that it does not matter how they make the stops, because they are getting drugs off the street (and money in the agency’s department), and the ends justify the means.
What about the countless numbers of people who are being harassed, interrogated, and searched, who are not hauling drugs and who have done nothing wrong? The responsibility for stopping racial profiling and illegitimate forfeitures lies with prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys. When cops cannot be honest, prosecutors have an ethical obligation to dismiss their cases or not pursue illegal forfeiture actions. When prosecutors fail then defense attorneys should take them to task, and the courts should not rubber stamp what the police are doing.

One Response to “How to encourage constitutional violations by police officers

  • What is really frightening is that the zeal involved in these competitions encourages officers to plant already seized drugs and cash into innocent citizen’s vehicles during traffic stops. Planting drugs gives the impression that these guys are seizing more illegal cash and drugs on an annual basis.

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