|Civilians seizing cash|
|Civilians seizing cash|
|Written by Mark Nichols|
Who needs cops anyway? With George Zimmerman’s patrolling their neighborhoods, an increasingly armed and tactically proficient populace, and civilians making traffic stops and seizing cash from motorists, it’s getting increasingly hard to ignore the writing on the wall. Case in point- after seizing more than $1 million in cash in drug stops this year, a district attorney has suspended further roadside busts by his task force because of growing criticism over a private company's “participation.” According to an informative article from the Oklahoman newspaper, Caddo County District Attorney Jason Hicks has been very busy explaining why civilians were making stops while working with drug task force.
Now Hick’s prosecutors have dropped all criminal cases arising from the drug stops according to The Oklahoman.
Some seized money is even being returned. And the attorney general's office is investigating at least one complaint that seized funds went missing.
“I'm shocked,” a Caddo County special judge said when told about the situation.
The judge spoke at a hearing after learning the private company's owner pulled over a pregnant driver along Interstate 40 and questioned her.
He’s not a cop and has no legal authority to stop or question anybody.
“For people to pull over people on I-40 without that license is shocking to me,” Special Judge David A. Stephens said. The judge said he hoped Joe David, owner of Desert Snow LLC should tread carefully in the future and not do anything like this ever again.
“If you do, I hope to see you soon, wearing orange,” the judge said.
The problem is obviously Hicks' decision to hire Desert Snow to do on-site training with his task force for a year.
The terms Hicks agreed to when he signed a one-of-its-kind contract in January are interesting.
Hicks agreed in writing to pay the Guthrie-based company 25 percent of any funds seized during actual training days. He agreed to pay the company 10 percent of funds seized by his task force on other days when the company trainers weren't present.
Sometimes, no drugs were found and no one was arrested, but task force officers took money found in the vehicles anyway after a drug-sniffing dog got excited or was false alerted by a handler.
Forfeited funds are split among the law enforcement agencies of the task force. But that’s after Desert Snow gets their end first.
So is this blatant corruption featuring all manner of kickbacks and back-room deals? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t observers say.
“I think his intentions were good, but I don't think he thought it out,” well-known defense attorney Irven Box, who represents a Colorado man charged with marijuana possession after being stopped for a cracked windshield told reporters.
Box said in no way should a private company be involved in drug stops when it gets paid from funds found on the stops.
“That … at least gives the appearance that these seizures are done for profit and not to protect the citizens,” he said.
That’s a controversial issue when it involves certified police professionals let alone civilian training outfits.
Hicks said he’s done nothing wrong.
“I believe I have done everything right,” he said.
He promised to review every civil money forfeiture case and every criminal case involving his task force.
“I understand the criticism. I understand the concern,” he said. “I have halted any activity on the highway by the interdiction unit pending my review … with the staff attorneys.”
We’ll keep you posted as the story develops.
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