What are the chances Oklahoma, of all places, would be on the cutting edge of high tech? Yet, when it comes to glomming money, they’re on it. Like flies on shit.
The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety has purchased Electronic Recovery and Access to Data machines for installation in Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Oklahoma City police cruisers, according to an Oklahoma Watch report published Tuesday. The device tells officers the balance of prepaid debit cards and gift cards, and allows them to seize the money if they determine it’s suspicious. ERAD readers also can provide limited information about pretty much any card with a magnetic strip, including bank debit cards and credit cards.
This explanation is slightly flawed, which is understandable given its source. You see, ERAD enables cops to seize money. Whether they “determine it’s suspicious” or not is spin, and even as spin goes, it’s wrong.
Here’s how it works. If a trooper suspects you may have money tied to some type of crime, the highway patrol can scan any cards you have and seize the money.
“We’re gonna look for different factors in the way that you’re acting,” Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. John Vincent said. “We’re gonna look for if there’s a difference in your story. If there’s someway that we can prove that you’re falsifying information to us about your business.”
The purported basis for seizure and forfeiture is to “take the profit out of crime,” which is one of those cute slogans with which lovers of fortune cookies readily agree. After all, who wants criminals to enjoy their ill-gotten gains? But then, advertising slogans may work well enough to sell laundry detergent, but they make for a particularly poor basis for legal doctrine.
At best, that there is something “suspicious” may give rise to the taint of underlying nefarious conduct, but is so vague and meaningless, not to mention potentially total malarky, that it provides no basis to take money or property from someone.
But then, that’s not what the Oklahoma Highway Patrol guys are talking about at all. They are looking for a “difference in your story,” as if there is a requirement that a story be told, that people have to explain their “story” to road cops at all, and that it has to meet the approval of a highway patrol officer’s notion of a satisfactory story. Then, of course, there is the question of whether the cop really couldn’t care less and just wants the money, story be damned.
All of this is, and has been, a monumental problem rife with abuse for decades. Nothing new here? Oh no, there’s something very new, and it raises the ante to a whole different level. Until now, roadside seizures were limited to the cash or property on hand. Traveling to Disneyland with a wad of dough so your kids could ride Dumbo? Watch a cop’s face light up. This was bad enough.
With ERAD, however, they can take it all. In the bank? Gone. Credit card? Maxed, plus that high interest loan the bank was hoping against hope you would take. Anything. Everything. If there’s a magnetic strip on it, it’s theirs.
But the cops don’t want you to be afraid, because they would never abuse their card reader.
“I know that a lot of people are just going to focus on the seizing money. That’s a very small thing that’ s happening now. The largest part that we have found … the biggest benefit has been the identity theft,” Vincent said.
“If you can prove can prove that you have a legitimate reason to have that money it will be given back to you. And we’ve done that in the past,” Vincent said about any money seized.
Courts are for kids. It’s the cops you have to convince. The best spin they can put on it is that people now have to “prove” the legitimacy of the money they have in the bank to the cop. Earned it working? Prove it. Prove it when you’re in your car driving down the road. Prove it when you’re three states away from wherever it is you work.
And no police officer would ever be too stupid to grasp that it’s legitimate. Worse yet, no police officer would ever shrug, steal every penny he could and tell you to go to court and try to get it back. Just because he could.
And no police officer, just because you took umbrage to his cleaning out your bank account on the side of the road, would ever use force to teach you not to be disagreeable. If you’re lucky, it will be limited to a tasing with a knee in your back and a few punches to your face. If not, it’s a bullet.
It doesn’t matter that the root of the violence was a cop’s seizing your money because he decided your story didn’t add up. After all, your non-compliant reaction could strike fear of harm and violate the First Rule of Policing, giving the officer every reason in the law to kill you for his own safety. With total judicial approval.
All of this is, of course, already at risk by the concept of civil forfeiture, by the authorization of cops seizing cash and property at will, shifting the burden of fighting for its return upon the owner. But ERAD raises the stakes to a level heretofore unrealized. It’s no longer just the cash in your pocket at risk, but your life savings. Plus.
On the bright side, Republican State Senator Kyle Loveless gets the problem.
State Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, said that removes due process and the belief that a suspect is presumed innocent until proven guilty. He said we’ve already seen cases in Oklahoma where police are abusing the system.
“We’ve seen single mom’s stuff be taken, a cancer survivor his drugs taken, we saw a Christian band being taken. We’ve seen innocent people’s stuff being taken. We’ve seen where the money goes and how it’s been misspent,” Loveless said.
Loveless has introduced legislation to require a conviction before forfeiture, which makes law enforcement groups feel bad.
Law enforcement groups have lobbied hard against the legislation, calling it a gift to criminals and an unnecessary attack on their profession.
In the meantime, leave your gift cards at home, all you criminals, as they have magnetic strips too.
Update: As if this wasn’t bad enough, it gets worse (h/t Brandon Fetch).
The contract signed by the state and ERAD Group, obtained by Oklahoma Watch, states that Department of Public Safety will pay a one-time $5,000 implementation charge and a $1,500 training charge for the devices.
ERAD Group will receive a 7.7 percent cut of all funds seized via the card readers. Vincent said the 16 prepaid card readers obtained by the department were installed in May.
No, there is no rationale to explain why ERAD Group should get a cut of the vig.