I have to tell you at every turn these days I’m finding that law enforcement is becoming more lawless than the folks they’re policing.
Supported by a measure known as civil asset forfeiture, law enforcement can seize your property if they suspect that said property is an ill acquired gain. You can be as innocent as a new born baby and they still can take your money, vehicles, home, and anything else they deem illicitly acquired. In some cases, the property is never returned to the owners.
Here is real life example of a man who’s life was put on hold because of some DEA agents using the civil asset forfeiture law with reckless disregard.
On April 15th, 2015 Twenty-two year old Joseph Rivers set out on a train trip from Michigan to Los Angeles, armed with his life savings and plans of making a video shoot in Hollywood.
Rivers was traveling with bags containing his clothes, a few other possessions and an envelope that contained $16,000 in cash that he had raised with the help of his family.
After Rivers changed trains in at the Amtrak Station in Albuquerque, New Mexico things went horribly wrong.
The Albuquerque Journal Reports DEA Agents boarded the train looking for drug traffickers. It’s reported also that it’s routine for agents to stop passengers and inquire about their destination and travel plans. (I have a problem with them doing this - but that’s fodder for a future blog post).
Rivers was the only Black person on the train. What’s never reported is it’s routine for law enforcement to rouse innocent Black men every opportunity they get. The DEA agents interrogated Rivers. Witnesses say the agents interrogated Rivers differently than they did anyone else.
Long story short, the agents requested to go through River’s bags. River consented to the property search. The agents find the sixteen large and seize it under the suspicion it was acquired from the sales of narcotics.
That’s it. Nothing else. Having the money for this video on him, as he traveled from Michigan to Los Angeles was sufficient “evidence” that he was a drug dealer, even though no drugs were found on him, and there was no link made between him and any criminal element.
I call bullshit on this. This is highway robbery and could happen (and probably will if we live long enough) to any of us.
Rivers told the Journal,
“These officers took everything that I had worked so hard to save and even money that was given to me by family that believed in me. I told (the DEA agents) I had no money and no means to survive in Los Angeles if they took my money. They informed me that it was my responsibility to figure out how I was going to do that.”
Yes, the DEA is all laid back behind this.
Sean Waite, the agent in charge at the DEA’s Albuquerque’s office, admitted that “we don’t have to prove that the person is guilty. It’s that the money is presumed to be guilty.”
“Guilty money?” This is crazy as all get out.
Yes, one can get a lawyer (at their expense) and go to court and attempt to get their property back. There are untold cases of this happening to people and even after going to court they don’t get their property back. My position on this is "why the hell should someone have to go to court in the first place? The property should have never been taken".
I’m telling you the landscape of law enforcement is looking more like wild wild west everyday. There are officers running around with a license to kill and steal sanctioned by a society that gives them a pass at every turn.