When Trekkie Terrance Huff posted the video of his stop by Collinsville cop Michael Reichert, it caused a bit of angst for the locals. You see, Collinsville made money off two things, its cops and its hotel rooms, used by passers-through as a place to stop before going to anywhere else in the world that was a better place to be than Collinsville. It was a good plan, until Huff screwed it all up.
After posting his nerd video, Huff posted a video of Reichert’s deposition, where he explained how he tested his drug-sniffing dog by rubbing drug scent on cars parked in motel parking lots. That could be used to follow the previously parked cars on the highway, run the dog around them and get a hit. Of course, Reichert would be the guy who put the scent on the car, but a hit is a hit, and that means a search. And one never knows what a search will turn up.
It was this type of ingenuity that made Reichert a local hero. Via Pro Libertate :
In January 2011, Reichert was given a commendation by Collinsville Police Chief Scott Williams. In April, Reichert was named “Officer of the Month.” This was a reward for what was described as exemplifying “the proactive and innovative philosophy of law enforcement prescribed to [sic] by the Collinsville Police Department. He has demonstrated this by his aggressive approach to drug trafficking in the area.”
“Officer Reichert had 166 total incidents with 6 arrests and 7 citations in 13 working days,” explained the department’s report. “In addition to this he had 3 self initiated significant incidents that is very worthy of praise [sic.]”
Reichert’s initiative, however. was not universally admired.
This routine was described by Federal Judge Michael J. Reagan in a 2005 ruling that described the officer as a “polished performer” and revealed him to be someone from whom lies flow as easily as bile from a ruptured liver.In this sense, “polished performer” is not necessarily a compliment. But then, he was a profit center, and what more can a small town ask of its police? Yet, this is where Reichert’s plus became a local minus, as that mean, nasty Huff’s videos about Reichert and Collinsville, where he warned others to stay far away from Collinsville, started cutting in on his action.
“By simply adding up `suspicious’ factors while ignoring non-suspicious or mitigating factors [in the Zambrana traffic stop], Reichert misused the `totality of circumstances’ principle as a sword to unjustly pierce Zambrana’s cloak of Fourth Amendment protection,” concluded Judge Reagan.
When the profitability of a municipality’s scheme takes a hit, there are two ways to go. On the one hand, they can stop doing bad things that bring them, and their local businesses, into disrepute. On the other, they can send a demand letter to the guy revealing their scheme and tell him to shut up. Guess which hand Collinsville picked?
“I just got an e-mail from the city attorney asking to have the [Lodging in Collinsville] video taken down by the end of the day,” attorney Louis Meyer informed Pro Libertate in a December 4 phone interview. “He didn’t explain why he thought Mr. Huff had to do this. It is a publicly available document attached to our motion for summary judgment. There was nothing placed under seal, and all of this information – including the video of the deposition – was available to anybody willing to go into the clerk’s office and ask for it.”
As if turned out, Huff wasn’t the only out-of-state driver to fall prey to Reichert, and the bit of notoriety his video caused brought out others who, like Huff, fell victim to what Huff’s attorney, Dan Kiss, called “pirates in police uniforms.”
Much as courts embrace the War on Drugs in terms of saving society from the ravages of this blight, compelling judges to endorse pretext stops and imbue cute doggies with magical powers to justify warrantless searches, few take notice of the banality of cops like Reichert and towns like Collinsville just feeding off the drug trough. No hotbed of gangs or crazed hippy addicts, but a sleepy town that makes a living off unsuspecting travelers.
Until Terrance Huff made a video. But for his videos, you couldn’t get a room at the Collinsville Red Roof Inn.
Update: The Collinsville city attorney sought relief in federal court to force the removal of Huff’s video from Youtube. The court refused.