New Report Suggests 'Policing For Profit' Reforms

New Report Suggests 'Policing For Profit' Reforms

By Phil Williams. CREATED Mar 18, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A conservative-leaning group issued a new report Monday calling upon Tennessee lawmakers to take police out of the business of making money for their agencies.

The report from the Beacon Center of Tennessee, titled "The Perils of Policing for Profit," follows an exclusive, two-year NewsChannel 5 investigation. That investigation revealed how some police agencies routinely target out-of-state drivers, looking for cash they can seize on the suspicion that it might be drug money.

"Tennessee would do well to repeal its current civil asset forfeiture statutes, as they allow untold assaults on private property rights," the Beacon Center report said.

Short of that, the group called for a number of reforms, including:

  • Prohibiting any money that may be seized from going directly to the police agencies.
  • Holding law enforcement to a higher standard by putting the burden of proof on police, instead of property owners.
  • Requiring full disclosure of all seizures so that the process is completely transparent.
  • Ending secret "ex parte" seizure hearings where only the officers' side can be heard.
  • Allowing innocent victims to recover all costs, including attorney fees and lost income during the time spent to recover their property.

"First and foremost, we're just glad to be having the conversation,"  said Trey Moore, one of the report's authors.

"We're thankful to NewsChannel 5 for exposing this to a broad audience. We think it's important, and we're thankful legislators have taken notice. We don't think necessarily that a full repeal could happen this year, although we would like to sit down and discuss why."

You can read the Beacon Center's full report here.

Two reform bills are scheduled Tuesday afternoon in a House subcommittee.

One of those, HB 1078, will be heard first in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee at 3 p.m. in Legislative Plaza Room 31. That bill is sponsored by Rep. Barrett Rich, R-Somerville.

If you want to voice your opinion -- for or against the proposal -- the committee members, their email addresses and phone numbers are as follows:

Tony Shipley, rep.tony.shipley@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-2886
Karen Camper, rep.karen.camper@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-1898
Jeremy Faison, rep.jeremy.faison@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-6871
G.A. Hardaway, rep.ga.hardaway@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-5625
William Lamberth, rep.william.lamberth@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-1980
Micah Van Huss, rep.james.vanhuss@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-1717
Eric Watson, rep.eric.watson@capitol.tn.gov, (615) 741-7799

Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, has also been working on similar legislation.

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Phil Williams

Phil Williams

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Phil Williams is chief investigative reporter for NewsChannel 5's nationally award-winning investigative team.