As common in most jurisdictions, the police can confiscate drugs and other illegal and/or dangerous articles. Some states even allow sale of confiscated items after conviction. However, if there is no conviction or charges are not filed, then legal possessions must be returned to the individual. I don’t know of any state police agency that demands thousands of dollars cash or take your jewelry on the spot—unless they are on the take.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Guillory, estimates Tenaha police seized $3 million between 2006 and 2008, and in about 150 cases — virtually all of which involved African-American or Latino motorists — the seizures were improper. According to Guillory, “They are disproportionately going after racial minorities,” he said. “My take on the matter is that the police in Tenaha, Texas, were picking on and preying on people that were least likely to fight back.”
City officials, including the Mayor, are circling the wagons and saying that proper procedures under Texas law were followed and that Texas law allows use of “seized” items “for official use.” So, where do the proceeds go?
- $524 for a popcorn machine
- $195 for candy for a poultry festival
- $400 for catering
- $6,000 to a local Baptist church
- $10,000 went to Barry Washington, a Tenaha police officer for “investigative costs.” By the way, Washington has been repeatedly named in several complaints by stopped motorists.
- In addition, money was donated to the local chamber of commerce and a youth baseball league.
Man, this opens up all kinds of issues. For starters, is this a state-sponsored shake down or what? What’s my advice? Plan your trip around this town or maybe even the state if you can. Think I’m kidding? Keep in mind that Jasper Texas, which is just down the road, is where James Byrd was dragged and lynched. Need I say more? What say you?