Wandering Eye: Cops seizing property, militarized cops, and details about the Palin family brawl

The WaPo has been looking at the asset forfeiture law and how police use it. The law was passed more than 30 years ago to try to dent major drug traffickers' organizations. It allows law enforcement officers to take cash and stuff—cars, boats, jewelry—from suspected criminals without the requirement that they be convicted of a crime. The person whose stuff was taken then must prove to a court that the stuff is not connected to drugs or other illegal activity. It turns the United States' normal criminal procedure, in which the government must prove the person guilty, on its head. The latest story examines the things police departments buy with the seized cash and assets. The Post reporters learned this from 43,000 reports filed by police agencies across the land, which the newspaper got through a Freedom of Information Act request. Much is made of a $250 clown hire, but the most shocking statistic floats past without much context or comment. It is this: "Of the nearly $2.5 billion in spending reported in the forms, 81 percent came from cash and property seizures in which no indictment was filed, according to an analysis by The Post." This looks damning, and probably is. But an indictment is only one way criminal charges can be filed. There is also a "criminal information," filed usually when the suspect is ready to plead guilty. Most complex drug trafficking cases take years to come to fruition, so a seizure in, say, 2012 might not lead to an arrest until 2014, or later. The story does not detail how the Post is accounting for the potential lag in "indictments" or whether other kinds of arrests and criminal charges may be in the offing. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


Alecia Phonesavanh's righteous indignation, detailed in a first-person Slate piece, is well-founded:Aa Habersham County, Georgia SWAT team raided her relatives' home where she and her family were staying because they had reason to suspect someone in the house had illegal drugs, and tossed a flash-bang grenade in her baby's crib. The baby somehow survived, and turns 2 tomorrow, facing many more years of already taxing reconstructive surgeries. The cops' behavior has been ruled lawful, as it likely was under the law, but the impact of their conduct—the physical, emotional, and financial ruin of a family that happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time—has prompted Phonesavanh to become an ardent advocate of reforms to ratchet back the increasing militarization of American police forces, a ripening cause that seems to be unifying the normal divisions in the nation’s political spectrum. (Van Smith)


The Smoking Gun posted the police report from the Sarah "Barracuda" Palin family brawl of Sept. 6 after no criminal charges were filed. The former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate was not involved in the melee, but her husband, daughters, and son all allegedly fought various people at a birthday party after the Palins arrived in a white limo and Bristol Palin became drunk and belligerent. Track Palin apparently got the worst of it. Police spotted him, bloody and shirtless, as they pulled up around midnight at the Anchorage address. Apparently it was a perfect "Cops" scene. The Smoking Gun: "At one point, while police were interviewing partygoers, Todd Palin confronted Klingenmeyer and asked the host if 'he called his daughter a "bitch."' Willow Palin then approached and 'also got involved flipping [Klingenmeyer] off and getting loud.' Officer Ruth Adolf noted that, 'We eventually separated everyone and the Palin family ended up leaving.'" (Edward Ericson Jr.)

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