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Nashville’s NewsChannel 5 to air primetime documentary chronicling Tennessee law enforcement’s asset forfeiture practices [the documentary will also be available online]:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – NewsChannel 5′s award-winning investigative team wraps up a two-year investigation into practices that some call “policing for profit” with a primetime documentary airing Friday, Dec. 21, at 7 p.m. CST.

The one-hour special includes actual police “dashcam” videos of officers seizing cash from out-of-state drivers and extended interviews that have never been aired. It comes as lawmakers are debating possible reforms.

In addition to airing on NewsChannel 5, the documentary will also be simultaneously streamed on newschannel5.com.

“We are entitled not to be deprived of our property without due process of law, both under the Tennessee Constitution and the federal Constitution – and nobody cares,” Union City attorney John Miles says in the documentary.

NewsChannel 5′s investigation, led by chief investigative reporter Phil Williams, has already received some of the nation’s highest journalism awards – even as the NewsChannel 5 Investigates team continued to investigate and expand upon its original reporting.

The documentary examines civil forfeiture laws that allow Tennessee police to legally take cash from individuals based on suspicion that the money might be linked to drug trafficking. If an individual does not take legal action to recover the money, the police agency gets to keep it all – sometimes to pay the salaries of the officers seizing the cash.

As a result, NewsChannel 5 discovered, agencies across Tennessee have now become focused on stopping and often searching out-of-state drivers in search of money that they can confiscate. Some jurisdictions have struck deals to allow outside agencies patrol their highways – in exchange for a cut of any money seized off of drivers. It has also led to turf wars among police agencies working the same stretch of roadway. Excerpted from NC5 Documentary Examines ‘Policing For Profit’, NewsChannel 5, 13 Dec. 2012.

Check out Tennessee Tales: A Review Of Misappropriations, Missing Funds, Improper Accounting, & Stolen Drugs for further relevant coverage of Tennessee law enforcement’s recent difficulties:

4th Judicial District Drug Task Force: DTF agent indicted for two counts of theft of Drug Task Force funds after $5,700 goes missing.

10th Judicial District Drug Task Force: $4,500 shortage in evidence and confidential funds. A  In excess of $17,000 in 10th Judicial District DTF credit charges lacked adequate documentation including $6,800 with no documentation. Quality reporting from Judy Walton of the Times Free Press reveals that, between 2008 and 2010, 10th Judicial District DTF agents spent more than $100,000 of seizure proceeds on hotels, meals, mileage and airfare. Walton also reported that former “DTF Director Mike Hall’s drug task force credit card was used to charge more than $50,000 between 2008 and 2010 on meals for himself, task force members and guests at local restaurants, as well as gifts, flowers and goodies for co-workers and office secretaries, credit card receipts show.”

12th Judicial District Drug Task Force: Failed 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim reveals that local DTF paid 20% ‘referral fees’ to at least one informant for seizures leading to DTF forfeiture proceeds as a bounty.

13th Judicial District Drug Task Force: An employee improperly charged personal expenses to Drug Task Force accounts resulting in a cash shortage of $10,000.

17th Judicial District Drug Task Force: At a motion to suppress hearing, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger notes: ”Essentially, all of [17th Judicial District Interdiction Agent] Daugherty’s traffic stops are pretextual attempts to find illegal drugs.” [Incidentally, Daugherty was the 2008 national runnerup for interdiction officer of the year-based on numerical measure of of productivity.] Under oath, Daugherty admits that DTF funding is reliant on seizure revenues. When asked by defense counsel: ‘”Is it a fair statement that part of the reason that you were up by the Kentucky border at least 100 miles away from your four counties was the fact that it’s better hunting grounds up there?” Daugherty agrees that the drug-related activity in that area is “better.”” Judge suppresses Daugherty’s testimony after noting that she finds his testimony unconvincing and speculates why Daugherty does not employ available equipment to document cause for stops.

23rd Judicial District Drug Task Force: Sloppy accounting and a missing $54,000 in seized currency. NewsChannel 5 Investigates reports that “that officers with the 23rd have been paid thousands of dollars in bonuses, some years higher than others.” DA denies bonuses are tied to drug busts or amount of money officers seize. NewsChannel 5 Investigates presents evidence that motorists are being pulled over for fictitious traffic violations after the Dickson Police Chief, who serves as chairman of the board for the 23rd Judicial District DTF, claims: ”Every time they stop somebody it is a legal traffic stop.”

24th Judicial District Drug Task Force: Cash, guns, drugs, jewelry, and equipment under the control of the Drug Task Force were misused, stolen, and/or lost. Falsified records. Theft and smoking of crack cocaine stored in evidence, missing marijuana, etc. Drug Task Force Director at the time of the offenses “charged with one count of theft, one count of official misconduct and one count of knowingly giving a false statement to an auditor.” DTF’sAdministrative Assistant charged several days later with “one count of theft and one count of knowingly giving a false statement to an auditor.”

Crump Police Department: Multiple unauthorized removals of various seized drugs.

Dickson County Sheriff’s Office: Missing drug money. Fraud. Forgery.

Etowah Police Department: Seized drugs, cash, and guns missing.

Gallaway Police Department: Missing guns, guns issued to non-law enforcement, allegations of duplicate pay for police chief.

Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office: Deputy initially “arrested and charged with one count of burglary, one count of theft and one count of tampering with evidence” after narcotics go missing from the evidence room. Charges grow to 68 counts.

Henry County Sheriff’s Office: Sheriff and sheriff’s office business manager indicted after audit finds $162,000 shortage and falsified records, mail fraud, conspiracy, etc.

Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office: “A Lauderdale County deputy sheriff repeatedly spent undercover funds for unauthorized purposes and falsified documents to cover his tracks, a report by the Comptroller’s Division of County Audit has found.”

McMinn County Sheriff’s Office: Deputy indicted for one count of official oppression. Deputy accused of stealing prescription drugs from motorists.

Monterey Police Department: Guns and some $30,000 goes missing. Former police chief pleads guilty to theft. Allegations that the current police chief diverted asset forfeiture funds to pay for the use of a bulldozer leads local District Attorney to call for an investigation.

Trenton Police Department: $73,000 in cash goes missing from police department. Police chief and his secretary are purportedly the only individuals with access. Town officials have no explanations.

Unicoi County Sheriff’s Office: Sheriff  indicted on multiple felony charges including “six counts official misconduct, one count of theft over $1,000, one count of tampering with evidence, one count of criminal simulation and one count of attempted aggravated assault.”

Wilson County Sheriff’s Office: Former Lieutenant accused of, among other things, falsely claiming to witness a drug deal between two men, holding the men at gunpoint, falsely arresting them and seizing their vehicles and cash, forging documents in an attempt to claim ownership of (several) other vehicles seized by the sheriff’s office, checking out unknown amounts of marijuana from the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office evidence room and arranging for its sale at personal gain, selling confidential information to the target of a drug investigation, burglarizing the residence of his former girlfriend to give the stolen items to his wife as gifts, and attempting to poison his wife. Bunch of other stuff gone too-including disappeared cocaine.

Whitwell Police Department: former police chief and former city recorder arrested for theft.

Scott Alexander Meiner, Tennessee Tales: A Review Of Misappropriations, Missing Funds, Improper Accounting, & Stolen Drugs, Americans for Forfeiture Reform, 09 Sept. 2012.

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