Small town Texas police accused of fleecing motorists

The old saying, don’t mess with Texas, is especially fitting if you happen to find yourself traveling through Tenaha, where local police are accused of stealing from Hispanic and African American motorists.

Victims assert that police in this town of 1,000 have used trumped up charges and other threats to compel them to sign over large sums of money and personal property. One estimate places the number of incidents near 150, with close to $3 million taken in the last three years.

Local police in Tenaha, Texas are accused of stealing from Hispanic and African American motorists. It is believed $3 million has been taken from victims over the years. For a look at the most dangerous times to drive, click through our gallery.

The actions taken by law enforcement are not just improper, they are downright disgusting. In more than one case an officer threatened to turn a couple’s children over to protective services if they didn’t surrender up to $50,000 in cash. One officer went so far as to try on a victim’s jewelry in front of him, asking how it looked. While several of the involved parties have recovered their money and property after filing a lawsuit. at least one individual is still out the $8,500 that officers took from him.

The practice takes advantage of a Texas law allowing law enforcement to confiscate money and personal property if they believe it was used in the commission of a crime. Despite the requirement that property be returned if no charges are filed, this is a rare occurrence in Tenaha. CNN reports that the town spent the money on many things including; department expenses, donations to a local church and a $10,000 check issued to one of the involved officers.

This type of behavior isn’t limited to a small town in Texas.
A case in Indiana sounds more fitting for an episode of The Shield than a crime in the Hoosier state. The Delaware County prosecutor was ordered late last year to refund legal fees after it was discovered that he had formed confidential agreements with a drug task force to get legal fees and 25% of seized assets, avoiding the mess of a trial.

It’s not surprising that this power is abused by certain individuals and entities; mixing the ability to confiscate property with the potential for personal gain is asking for trouble. The corruption hasn’t gone unnoticed, at least not in Texas, where the state is currently trying to stop the use of the methods used to extract money and jewelry from individuals in Tenaha.

Some cops lie and commit crimes. So says an admitted former crooked NYPD cop, Robert Cea in a new book featured on the front page of the New York Daily News. According to this cop’s own admission it is a regular practice to lie on the witness stand, falsify police reports, selectively enforce crimes, and do dirty work and strike shady deals with criminal “informants.” Cea’s former collaborators in the NYPD are, of course, dismissing the claims, but the rest of us should pay good attention to the issues being raised. Even if one argues that the vast majority of law enforcement officials are good and honest, there are more than just a few bad apples that are poisoning their departments and making a mockery of justice.

According to pundit Michelle Malkin, society does not praise cops enough. She also argues that the media only focuses on the bad cops. In her column she lists off the heroic deeds of a few cops that have gone unnoticed as a sign of our ingratitude. Malkin, a conservative with some good ideas mixed with authoritarian tendencies, also took silliness to a new level last year with a book defending the internment of 112,000 mostly innocent Japanese during World War II. Now she informs us that we don’t show enough respect to our “boys in blue.”

This is nonsense. Aside from rap artists mocking police and occasional skeptical media stories directed at law enforcement, cops are usually subject to lavish praise on the news, Hollywood movies and network television shows. Back from the days of black and white TV, police action movies and dramas have captivated audiences. In modern times, the long running television show “Cops” glorifies the police force. Multiple other TV programs are law enforcement dramas where police and detectives save the day. In most movies, cops are the good guys. Where there is a bad cop in the movie, he is usually foiled by the good cops.

Not only that, but police are regularly honored by schools, churches and other groups for their service. Also, thinking about running for office? Well, an endorsement from your local police department will never hurt and is usually a plus with the average citizen. Let’s be very honest, the general perception of cops amongst the public is still pretty good, especially since 9/11.

Apparently, this is not enough for Malkin and other apologists of the post-9/11 emerging Police State.

Negative news stories and negative accusations from the political left regarding police usually have nothing to do with the allegations made by Cea, but instead obsess about supposed “racism” in departments or “racist” acts committed on the job. While I’m sure such acts do occur in real time and space, many of these accusations are bunk and most of the American public that doesn’t reside on the loony left of the political spectrum sees through it. But to dismiss them wholly would also be a mistake. The problem is much bigger, however.

The real problem with police today is not racism, but inherent corruption and arrogance that is prevalent in law enforcement agencies all around the country. The problem is the law enforcement culture itself which does basically whatever it wants without any accountability from above.

What Cea is describing in his book are practices that are well-known to any local cop just about anywhere, not just large powerhouses like the NYPD. Honest cops will attest to the crimes being committed by their co-workers. And it happens everywhere, all around the country and nobody in any position of power is doing anything to stop it. Instead of accountability, these same cops get mainly praise and popular pundits implore us to show even more fawning adoration for the law enforcement culture.

One former cop I knew from a small town in Michigan quit the police force because of what he saw as rampant corruption. In his town of just 10,000 or so he reported the same kind of garbage that Cea said occurred in the NYPD: cops lying on the stand, intentionally dishonest police reports, collaborating with criminals and all the rest.

Here’s a test: If you know a cop you believe is honest, ask him how often these things occur in his department. His answer will probably shock you.

Who is willing to stand up to the abuse? Not many people. Cops routinely lie and cover for each other. Judges are not totally oblivious to the excesses of law enforcement, but usually just don’t care and are willing participants with police. Defendants and regular people stand little chance for a fair trial or fair hearing.

The situation is even worse at the federal level. The FBI, IRS and other “investigative” and law enforcement federal agencies do basically whatever they please and many times are more corrupt than the people that they are investigating. Federal prosecutors and federal judges work hand in hand at making sure the accused are convicted regardless of what the facts really are. Anyone who has been targeted by the feds or has a family member who has been knows exactly what I’m talking about.

There is so much that could be said about the abuses by law enforcement on all levels that a lengthy book could not even cover it all. On local, state and federal levels, entrapment runs rampant to catch everything from speeders to drug dealers. But law enforcement officials frequently commit crimes in order to catch the criminals. Hence the very regular practice of undercover law enforcement officials approaching people with drugs and possessing drugs but then arresting people who take the bait.

Then of course there are the very regular well-known practices of cops just sitting around in select locations looking to bust speeders. Prime spots are usually heavily trafficked roads where the speed limit just dropped (for instance, a busy road where the limit just went from 55 to 45 or 45 to 35). Before the driver realizes the limit has dropped he is pulled over by a menacing cop who is looking to meet a ticket quota or is just “doing his job” by harassing otherwise law-abiding citizens.

Have a disagreement with a cop and say something he doesn’t like (even politely without profanity)? Well, get ready to be arrested for disorderly conduct. Unaware that one of your brake lights is out? Too bad, be prepared to be pulled over and get ready for an uncomfortable interrogation. Not wearing your seatbelt? Click it or ticket, punk.

None of these examples are far-fetched. They go on all the time, everywhere, everyday. Outside of these petty examples are the far more troubling allegations being raised by Cea that also happen far more than anyone wants to admit. And that’s a huge problem: we know these things exist and we know it happens far more than we let on. But we want to continue to live in this make-believe world where the cops never do anything wrong and that it’s just a “generalization” to say that the law enforcement culture has a large corrupt element to it.

Yes there are plenty of good cops. But there are too many bad ones that are getting away with crimes and an arrogant abuse of power. The problem goes beyond just the personality of a particular local, state or federal law enforcement official. The problem is the culture of law enforcement itself that can step all over anyone it chooses with little accountability from lawmakers or the judiciary.

Perhaps Cea’s book and other defectors can help shed light on the troubling trends in law enforcement today. If Michelle Malkin and other law and order apologists want to serve a good cause, they can take these allegations seriously instead of telling the rest of us to ignore the trampling of our rights.


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