Texas Cops Accused of Racist Highway Robbery

Black motorists given the choice of handing over property or facing felony charges
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2009 4:04 AM CDT
Texas police are accused of abusing asset-forfeiture laws to extort money from motorists, many of them African Americans.   (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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(Newser) – Cops in a small Texas town are accused of seizing the property of innocent black motorists to pad their salaries, the Chicago Tribune reports. A federal lawsuit alleges that Tehana police have abused the state's asset-forfeiture law—intended to penalize drug-runners—to extort money and other valuables from out-of-town drivers by threatening them with money laundering or other felony charges if they don't comply.

In a two-year period, 147 motorists—many of them African American—signed over belongings to the town but were never charged with any crime, according to records. A prominent state lawmaker, charging that police across Texas are engaging in similar behavior, has introduced a bill requiring police to go before a judge before attempting to seize property.