Tags: police | agency | road | constitution | rights | drivers

Report: Secret Police Agency on Roads Draws Constitutional Concerns

By    |   Tuesday, 11 November 2014 07:00 PM

A new report exposes a private firm that trains police and a secret agency within law enforcement that some people say is violating Americans' Constitutional rights.

The Washington Post uncovered the practice, which has resulted in police across the country seizing $2.5 billion in cash from nearly 62,000 people since 2001.

The story focuses on a 2013 case involving two men who were stopped in Iowa that was first reported by the Des Moines Register. One was a professional poker player and the other was a glass blower, and they said they were driving to Las Vegas.

The men were stopped after an Iowa state trooper was alerted to what an Illinois state trooper called a suspicious car driving through the state. Both troopers are members of Black Asphalt, an organization within law enforcement circles that allows officers and troopers from different agencies to share intelligence.

An Iowa trooper spotted the car later in the day and, after following it for several miles, conducted a traffic stop for what he said was a failure to use a lane changing signal. The stop appeared to be over when the trooper asked to search the car.

According to the Post, here is the conversation that took place between the trooper and the driver:

"Do you got any drugs? Any large amounts of U.S. currency?" asked the trooper.

"Absolutely not," the driver said.

"Nothing in there? Could I search your car?"

"I don't see any reason to. I'm not going to consent to that."

"OK. I'm just asking you if I can."


The trooper then said he wanted to bring a drug-sniffing dog to the scene to check the car.

"Could I just call him? Do you want to wait? I'll call him and just run a dog around it real quick," the trooper said.

"I'd prefer to be on my way. I mean, I'm telling you the truth, there's nothing in my car," the driver replied.

"I'm just asking you if you want to wait for me to run a dog around. I'd like to."

"Do I have the right to say 'no' to that?"

"You do."

"I'd prefer to be on my way."

At that point, the trooper said he sensed suspicious behavior emanating from the driver. He called a K9 unit to the scene, which alerted on a scent in the back of the car. A search turned up $100,020 in cash, most of it vacuum sealed in plastic bags, along with some small pieces of marijuana in an herb grinder.

The driver and the passenger were detained, taken to a highway maintenance facility, and questioned about the money. Investigators said they believed the money was related to drugs, so the police seized it before cutting the men loose with a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia.

The Iowa troopers then contacted police in California, where the men lived, and had their homes searched. That turned up marijuana plants and they were slapped with drug charges by California authorities, charges that were later dropped when prosecutors learned about the questionable traffic stop. The men also reportedly had legal permission to grow medical marijuana. And they claimed the seized money was for gambling.

Eventually, the Iowa State Police returned 90 percent of the men's money when the attorney for the pair obtained a copy of the traffic stop video that showed they did not break any traffic laws, which made the stop invalid.

The Post report highlights other examples of police seizing money from drivers without charging them with any crimes. The practice appears to derive from Desert Snow,  a private training facility for law enforcement that teaches officers to recognize criminal activity.

The Post confirmed that both troopers in the Iowa case are current members of Black Asphalt, but the Iowa Department of Public Safety said they have not provided any information to the intelligence network since 2012 due to liability reasons.

Black Asphalt, according to another Post report in September, allows police in different states and agencies to share motorists' Social Security numbers, contact information, identifying marks, and suggestions as to whether or not a car should be stopped.

The Iowa case questions the meaning of refusing to consent to a vehicle search. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution defends citizens against illegal search and seizure:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Refusing to give consent to a search does not give probable cause for a search. Law enforcement is trained to recognize other factors that indicate nervousness to move forward with a search after permission is denied.

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A new report exposes a private firm that trains police and a secret agency within law enforcement that some people say is violating Americans' Constitutional rights.
police, agency, road, constitution, rights, drivers
Tuesday, 11 November 2014 07:00 PM
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