Asset forfeiture, the effectiveness of drug dogs, and how difficult it is to get rid of a bad cop.
Last December, filmmaker Terrance Huff and his friend Jon Seaton were returning to Ohio after attending a “Star Trek” convention in St. Louis. As they passed through a small town in Illinois, a police officer, Michael Reichert, pulled Huff’s red PT Cruiser over to the side of the road, allegedly for an unsafe lane change. Over the next hour, Reichert interrogated the two men, employing a variety of police tactics civil rights attorneys say were aimed at tricking them into giving up their Fourth Amendment rights. Reichert conducted a sweep of Huff’s car with a K-9 dog, then searched Huff’s car by hand. Ultimately, he sent Huff and Seaton on their way with a warning.
Earlier this month, Huff posted to YouTube audio and video footage of the stop taken from Reichert’s dashboard camera. No shots were fired in the incident. No one was beaten, arrested or even handcuffed. Reichert found no measurable amount of contraband in Huff’s car. But Huff’s 17-and-a-half minute video raises important questions about law enforcement and the criminal justice system, including the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, the drug war, profiling and why it’s so difficult to take problematic cops out of the police force.
Similar stories have been reported along other forfeiture corridors across the country. In Teneha, Texas, police reportedly routinely pull over cars from out of state (the highway is popular for drivers, flush with cash and jewelry, going to and from casinos). A Nashville TV station recently reported on a stretch in Tennessee where the vast majority of police stops were of suspected drug runners leaving the city, meaning the police apparently preferred to let the drugs come into the city so they could seize the cash on the way out.