Saturday, February 18, 2006

What's the difference between a pirate and a privateer?

Will Bailey: "I was just going to ask you if by any chance the First Lady is a distant relative of a pirate."
CJ Cregg:
"He wasn't a pirate, he was a privateer."
Will Bailey:
"He was a professional pirate."
CJ Cregg:
"Yes, but he worked for us and he was hired by the fathers of the Daughters of the American Revolution."

Fourth season, "The West Wing," Privateers, Broadcast 3-26-03
The North Texas Drug Task Force based in Wichita Falls has declared that, with federal funds dried up, it now intends to finance itself solely off seized assets, mostly interdicted off the highway - sort of like pirates living off the boats they plunder on the high seas. Err, excuse me ... privateers.

UPDATE: See more approving coverage from the Wichita Falls Times Record News (reg. required), including this recent forfeiture account.

35 comments:

hope said...

Scott, that link in your comment called "seized assets" only goes to a Microsoft page, for me anyway.

Guess I better make sure my "soap box" is in the car before I drive through Wichita County.

Nobody wants to lose their job and find another. I understand that. We all have bills to pay.

The drug warriors are in an odd position. If they do a bad job of raking in cash and assets, they lose their jobs. If they win the WoD, they lose their jobs.

What's a narc to do?

Next thing you know...and I'm not laughing, some astounding things have been brought to the citizens of this country in the name of the WoD, we'll all be forced by law to anti up the body fluids to the never wrong drug testing folk.

Then the government, with the properly tweaked law, can just take everything the less than human "druggie" or "doper" owns, on the spot, and possibly his parents and grandparents assets as well.

Surely, we could meet all the necessary budgets that way.

Open your mouth. Take this cup. Give me your arm.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

fixed the link, it's just a short blurb, anyway.

hope said...

Thanks. I appreciate it.

Catonya said...

I saw this on the news last night. :(



can't help but wonder how long they were carried by my $500,000 donation under diress...

Steamboat Lion said...

Has nobody heard of the concept of moral hazard? It isn't actually that difficult concept to a) understand b) see where it's likely to be a problem.

If the government is to sieze assets at all they ought to go into a fund to compensate the victims (which might put an end to prosecuting victimless crimes).

The next worst solution is for it to go into the general fund.

Short of letting the cops personally keep the proceeds, using it to fund law enforcement is about the most counter-productive solution possible.

Anonymous said...

Grits,

I wouldn't suggest anything but:

When someone uses words like guarantee they know or have some idea how much money comes into their hands annualy from RAIDS. Believe me the number of raids and the numbers of arrests will go up drastically. Everyone will be arrested in the house during the raid and only one person will be convicted. It doesn't cost alot to set this situation up; you can lie in the probable cause; and the neat trick is you don't have to seize any drugs. If there's money, you seize it and civilly forfeit it. This is the method they use every day in Massachusetts and it's a very productive but corrupt law enforcement tool.

You think snitches lie now wait till the Task Force tells them all they have to do is help them get probable cause for a search; which isn't the same as using a snitch to do a buy.

Traffic stops will also increase especially for cars that look like they are going to Mexico.

All of this is predicated on: you stop and seize the money; you bankrupt the trafficker

God be with you in Texas but back to my suggestion. If there's a guarantee then the money that was seized before now went for some non-law enforcement expense, as a practical matter. If that's the case, FOIA records request of exactly where it went and what it was spent on could put the guarantor's in jail before their guaranteed offer starts. Just a suggestion and I would love to audit those records.

Anonymous said...

LMAO

Silly rabbit.

"Leave assets alone, lest we make everyone corrupt."

Fix the problem, people, and leave that working part of the equation alone. Unless, of course, your true agenda is legalizing narcotics (Scott?...you there Scott?).

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"the working part" -- asset forfeiture? Huh?

Shaine Mata said...

Scott, I'll be straight with you and tell you that your leaning towards the legalizing of drugs is a bit of a chasing rainbows ideal. On this, however, I totally agree with you. It's dangerous to let police fund themselves off of seized assets. Since they are the policing force, there is nobody to police them. Suddenly, everybody will "look suspicious" and be subjected to a search. Good call.

Anonymous said...

At least they're only financing themselves.....
most every law enforcement agency in Texas is financing their parent governmental entity thru traffic tickets and court fines. The cops are just the pawns of the politicians, feeding their budgetary dope habits.

Anonymous said...

To all you non law enforcement people out there. Asset forfeiture has been in existence for over 20 years. There are several ways to get it. You get it from the state but the percentage is usually less than 50%. You get from the feds but there you get 80%. You also get it if you participate in a fed task force like OCDETF, HIDTA, DEA, FBI, ICE, and ATF.

Think about this because it's not new. This has been going on for twenty years and there are departments (state and local) that have received millions of unregulated, non-taxpayer dollars with absolutely no rules or regulations how to spend it.

I feel it's pretty safe to say there's ample evidence police can't police themselves so do you think that all of this money will be accounted for?

Anonymous said...

Yeehaw! I love it when the rabid cop bashers show up.

Let's get it straight, chil'ren. Seizure money is more regulated than any other monies in a law enforcement budget...ANY OTHER. If a department has accounting problems, they will most likely have those same problems regardless of the source of that revenue. Likewise, responsible agencies will account for their spending.

But to make claims that this money won't or can't be accounted for is, well, just ignorant.

Don't believe me? Ask Scott. One well placed Open Records Request will account for everything (everything not stolen on the side of the highway, that is).

Sheesh

Anonymous said...

"legalizing of drugs is a bit of a chasing rainbows ideal."

Sure why would the government quit playing mother and father to us all and quit deciding what is good for us and what isn't? The government are like the evil step parents that will never go away, unless you're the Menendez brothers.

Like someone else stated, If the "War on Drugs" was ever won, a lot of cops would be out of a job! Think of all the federal and state revenue that would be lost! America has been at war for over 35 years, when we admit defeat? Never, as long as there is money and property to steal from the public! Who's the real criminals here?

Here's a thought, how about all the monies from "sieze assets," go towards education, public and private schools? Keep the money out of the corrupt hands of cops and politicians.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Shaine, and all: As I've said frequently before, "legalization" in today's debate means whatever the speaker thinks, good or ill, at the time - whatever criticisms of the concept you might have are more about your own baggage than anything I've ever said here. IMO the debate is framed wrongly, or at least unconstructively.

My goal is to think about the topic in the context of the whole criminal justice system, which suffers from misguided priorities from stem to stern similar to the ones rightly called a "moral hazard" in this string. I'm more concerned that the prisons and jails are overflowing with nonviolent offenders, that mentally ill people are housed in prison with psychopaths, that the probation and parole systems are broken, that so many innocent people in prison based on eyewitness testimony have been discovered, that jailed addicts and mental patients presently go untreated.

Why worry about tomorrow", Christ advised his disciples, when tomorrow will take care of itself? Sufficient unto today are the evils thereof.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous 8:58pm
"Let's get it straight, chil'ren. Seizure money is more regulated than any other monies in a law enforcement budget...ANY OTHER."

Let's set it straight. I am a former cop not just a rapid cop basher and here's how that money was seized, forfeited, and used.

For three years, I documented specific instances where a local task force received over 500K in forfeited proceeds. They received it from DEA through the asset forfeiture fund and the checks were given to the head of the task force that just happens to be a state police Lieutenant.

That money was suppose to be used for "law enforcement purposes" so here's what happened.

That account pays overtime to the state police in the task force and the account is controlled by that state police Lieutenant.

The state police Lieutenant's salary is about 80K and each year he made over 60K just in overtime.

Then comes the audit and this state police Lieutenant and his buddy were making sure all of the activities of the task force started when they started receiving overtime. They rode together in a car at a price of about 160.00 per hour per car. The overtime often cost more than the seized drugs.

This went on for about 14 years and each year, as best as I can tell, these standup Lieutenants earned a whopping 140 to 150k per year in a local drug task force.

Oh it's all legal until you look at their daily manhour diaries. They have themselves showing up for work at 9am; working until 5pm and then the overtime starts. In reality, they cut their grass, fixed some things around the house and showed up at 4pm to start work. Unless you were physically in the office, their scheme worked.

The scheme unraveled when an enterprising journalist surveilled one of their colleagues to an from work; documenting the times they arrived and left.

Cops know accounting and there will be an accounting trail. But this money is not subject to any oversight by someone outside of their department, especially when that someone is separated from their department like at a task force. The money is spent, but accounted for, and it's when you scrutinze the records for the expenditure, it's a fraud.

This isn't an isolated incident and in every task force I've been the Police Chief's, Task Force Head's have creative language that accounts for, but won't justify their day to day fraud.

All this said, for some local unsophisticated "hic" to call someone else they don't know "ignorant" is evidently troublesome because that "hic" is probably the dude in control of the police department's forfeited money.

cliff said...

"This went on for about 14 years and each year, as best as I can tell, these standup Lieutenants earned a whopping 140 to 150k per year in a local drug task force."

If this is true, and I don't have any reason to believe it isn't, with all the Homeland Security graft and corruption that has hit the news lately. This is so patently sad and outrageous, I almost can't come up with the words to describe my anger.

I worked very hard to get a degree and a job in a field that makes $45-50,000 / yr. I show up to work every day, on time and ready do my job. I have to be accountable for all of my actions on the job, through billing records and customer satisfaction.

These LEOs actions are the exact opposite of the accountablity I'm held to. They are making a king's ransom compared to what I make and are not held to any accountability what so ever.

No wonder they are so afraid of drug war reformers. They couldn't make it in my world. IMHO they are no different than the drug dealers who make a living off the drug war. They are extortionists and no better than the characters in the "Sopranos", using force and deception. The LEOs ask why people don't trust them, this is a pretty good illustration.

I used to respect LEO's, now I loathe and fear them to the point that I wish them ill will. All I can hope is that what comes around goes around and they get their come uppance.

Jim said...

The police share with inner-city kids the unfortunate status of being drug war victims. Both groups are presented with a big payoff on a daily basis if they do something that is illegal, but not really all that morally wrong -- in the case of the police, they might even be conditioned to believe that seizing assets from non-convicted (and often non-charged) "druggies" is a socially-beneficial act. Every now and then, we convict a "corrupt" cop and send him away for a long time, just like we do with an inner-city "drug dealer," and we can feel good about dealing with the bad apples and simultaneously feel smug about our moral superiority -- not that we can be confident that we would behave any differently if we were put in the same circumstances.

The world will come to its senses and legalize drugs, as the alternative is largely ineffective when it isn't counterproductive, extremely costly, and most of all -- unjust.

Jim said...

Oh, I recognize that asset seizure currently is legal -- I was thinking of the unofficial seizures or payoffs.

SteveHeath said...

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Exec Director Jack Cole has to me described asset forfeiture pertaining to (alleged) drug law violations is a "license to police to steal."

I like to refer to it as "Police Compensation on a Commission Basis with a very nice graduated sliding scale UP."

Steve in Clearwater FL
LEAP Media Relations
http://leap.cc

Anonymous said...

I am not civilized nor domesticated enough to allow it. I may not be able to stop it at the roadside, but I have sworn to myself that if not dead, I will make it my life's work to take as many as I can to a place where they can't enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

Steveheath, I'll just assume there was something more substantial in the context with which you and Jack Cole had a conversation. Seizure laws should be revamped a bit, but in their intended form they are a very good thing.

As for my 'anonymous' bruthuh out there, who claims not to be a "rapid" basher (wondering if that's a meth or coke addict), claims to have been a cop (sure buddy) and claims to have seen fraud "in every task force I've been" (all ONE of them?), I can only say that I appreciate your illustration of my argument.

You said the following regarding asset forfeiture; "there are departments (state and local) that have received millions of unregulated, non-taxpayer dollars with absolutely no rules or regulations how to spend it." You followed with; "I feel it's pretty safe to say there's ample evidence police can't police themselves so do you think that all of this money will be accounted for?"

I follow by throwing a little stone (only a little one, because "ignorance" is nothing to be ashamed of), and your reply is to offer another tiresome anecdote that does what?! FOLLOWS THE MONEY! If you can follow the money then it IS accounted for.

In reality, stolen TIME is what you're griping about in your alleged first-hand knowledge story. Not a lack of expenditure accounting. Therefore, once again, I must exclaim that seized funds are well accounted for, better than most other police funds.

You may not LIKE where they're spent, but that's another battle for you to fight.

I appreciate that you followed up with lackluster corrections, choosing to side-step your assault at task force "fraud". My issue here, as a current (for the time being) "Tulia-style" task force member/supervisor/administrator is; 1. seizure funds are well accounted for, and 2. if you make a claim, stand up like a big boy when your fallacy is unveiled.

Anonymous said...

Seizure laws may be good "in their intended form," but those are the type of intentions with which the road to hell is paved. It's hard to deny that in practice they've create perverse incentives, whatever the original intention.

The example anonymous at 10:05 criticizes did follow the money, it's true, but it did so to discover major corruption that went on more than a decade. That means that for years nobody paid attention at all while officers were stealing $$$ in the six figures annually. When somebody audited the funds, in other words, they weren't accounted for well.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:05pm

I am a retired DEA Agent and I guarantee that I have more experience than you at EVERY drug enforcement function.

What I found in Texas and the rest of the world is that people like you are defending what generally everyone else is beginning to realize doesn't work.

That is bad for law enforcement not good because there are those that want to legalize drugs and that's the first step they'll take.

In 1973, DEA was created to organize the drug enforcement effort accross the U.S because drug trafficking had become a national and international problem.

I'm not going to get into that in this blog but today everyone in drug enforcement is "cooperating" and they're targeting the very targets that separated them in 1973. It's localizing the effort blurring the lines, and creating a monster that's measured only by numbers.

Don't be so hateful and look at your job will a little more desire to stop the drug problem not AND do your job.

Anonymous said...

Ex-DEA agent said: "In 1973, DEA was created to organize the drug enforcement effort accross the U.S"

33 years later and the DEA is still losing the war on drugs. The only thing they gain is stealing money and property from citizens. What losers!

SteveHeath said...

Anonymous at 10:05pm last nite (reminds me to mention that IF you want to post anonymously, please consider adopting at least a two or three letter nickname so it's easier to distinguish between posters).....:


Steveheath, I'll just assume there was something more substantial in the context with which you and Jack Cole had a conversation. Seizure laws should be revamped a bit, but in their intended form they are a very good thing.


SH: Given that we've had the conversation many times and I've listened to Cole explain his views on drug law forfeitures to others, I can state with confidence there is little other context to dilute the message as I posted it yesterday.


Police who get paid on a commission basis will do like any other profession. They will focus on getting as many "sales" as possible. And in the drug law enforcement arena, the best part is you don't even have to have direct evidence of a drug crime. You don't even have to bring drug charges so of course don't even have to have a conviction.


Just seize the money and/or assets (older cars from poor people is a popular gambit in smaller jurisdictions) and You Just Got Paid. No expensive trial...no further need to stretch a possible drug case out....Just take the money and run...


Anony, if you're interested in discussing this in more depth OFFLIST, your sincere emails are welcome..... heath at leap.cc


I'd be glad to get Jack Cole to expound on the topic if your inquiry is real.

Anonymous said...

Appreciate the offer, steveheath but I don't believe we have much to talk about.

Misuse of seizure laws is wrong.

When a law enforcement agency relies on seizures we're all asking for trouble.

Harming criminals by taking away their criminally amassed fortune is a good policy.

I don't care where it's spent, as long as the criminals don't get to keep it.

Hope said...

"Harming criminals by taking away their criminally amassed fortune is a good policy."

A few years back, near Tyler, a family had owned their ranch since the Land Grant days. It had been in their family for five generations. One young descendant decided to plant 12 marijuana plants on the property. The entire ranch was seized and sold at auction.

We all know about the elderly grandmother up north, it was in the news, whose home was taken because her grandson had a few plants hidden in the corner of the basement. She had owned the home for years and years.

It's not good policy. Some lawmakers tried to tell the gung ho ones for it, that, at the time.

It's about money. It's about greed. And ultimately, it's always about corruption.

Anonymous said...

Hope,

I just refuse to believe that you think it's OK to let criminals keep their ill gotten gains. I understand that there have been abuses, and there are no excuses for such. I'm saying remove the abuses.

Otherwise, how do you punish a criminal if he can make millions of dollars illegally, and keep that money once he's caught? Send him to prison for a couple of years? So when he gets out he's still rich from hurting others? I just don't follow that "logic".

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I dare you to go over to 2withspirit.com and tell Catonya all that "ill-gotten gains" stuff. No, wait, don't - I like Catonya. That'd send her over the edge. Needless to say, many who have personal experience with the process would strongly, almost violently disagree with you.

Granting "abuses" is a good start. Maybe you'd name some you'd like to fix? But the motive for all abuses is the bad incentive. Make all the money go to, say, maintaining public parks or teacher salaries, and you'd see forfeitures occasionally done when and where appropriate, but not on a prospective, "have to make a bust to keep the lights on" basis like these guys want to do.

Anonymous said...

The only time I've agreed with you, Scott.

Law enforcement agencies should never have to rely on seizure money...or even be allowed to spend it. Put it towards something else.

If that's what it takes to end the abuse, so be it. Just don't let crooks keep their dirty money...violent, white collar, or ordinary criminal alike.

Cliff said...

If the prohibitionists were true to their calling, they would burn the ill gotten gains right along with the proceeds from the drug trade. IMHO it's blood money pure and simple and laundering it by using it for any other means doesn't take away the taint of the purposes it was gained by. It corrupts all that touch it. It is a corrosive influence to anyone that uses it or collects it. Govenment is no better than the drug dealers and the mafioso. It is an unaccountable tax on the drug trade.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:31pm:

"Let's get it straight, chil'ren. Seizure money is more regulated than any other monies in a law enforcement budget...ANY OTHER. If a department has accounting problems, they will most likely have those same problems regardless of the source of that revenue. Likewise, responsible agencies will account for their spending."

Anonymous at 11:31pm

"The only time I've agreed with you, Scott.

Law enforcement agencies should never have to rely on seizure money...or even be allowed to
spend it. Put it towards something else."

To those of you out there that follwed this, those comments were made by the same commentor. He, a Task Force Officer, has gone from it's all legally accounted for to don't even..." allow them to spend it"

This whack-job in Texas is a prima facia case for what you're deealing with. If it's so tightly regulated, why not be in favor of allowing the police to spend it.

This guy knows the records will account for it; but he also knows that if they look into the records you'll find the abuse; just like I found the fraudulent overtime.

Accounting for fraud is still FRAUD Mr. Police Task Force man.

Hope said...

"I just refuse to believe that you think it's OK to let criminals keep their ill gotten gains."

Do your really think that a ranch that's been in the family for five generations was the "ill gotten gain" of the family since a young man who had twelve immature plants stuck in the ground there?

Why don't we just seize the "ill gotten gains" of the Texas Lottery winners...they were gambling...and some folks think that's very bad?

It's a plant. It's being used as an excuse to persecute people, and quite profitably, for the persecutors.

Yes...I know you didn't make the law. You only enforce it. Your answer...law enforcement's answer...for years was, "If you don't like the law...change it."

That's all we're trying to do, is change those laws that we feel are doing more harm than good.

Seizure is theft by government and it's theft whether a criminal or an innocent is robbed…or has his possessions seized by someone who has given themselves the right to do such a thing in the name of law.

Anonymous said...

Hope, all I can say is it's your world, have fun living in it. Mine is much different.

Anonymous said...

Seizing assets before conviction flies in the face of inocent until proven guilty. Judges should handle and oversee this after conviction not before.