(Story originally created Dec 28, 2014)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – NewsChannel 5 Investigates looked back at its four-year “Policing for Profit” investigation in a one-hour, prime-time special that aired Saturday, Dec. 27.
That continuing investigation has exposed how some Tennessee police fund their agencies by taking cash off of out-of-state drivers – based on the suspicion that it’s drug money -- without ever charging those drivers with a crime.
Beginning in 2011 and continuing through 2014, NewsChannel 5’s investigative team revealed how innocent people have been victimized by questionable police tactics. That investigation also showed how such practices skewed law enforcement priorities, making them less interested in attempting to stop drug shipments into the area. ( Review investigation timeline. )
Those revelations have helped fuel a national conversation about civil forfeiture laws that make such practices legal.
Most recently, the “Policing for Profit” investigation was highlighted by comedian John Oliver during a segment on civil forfeiture for his HBO show Last Week Tonight.
Responding to national reports of such abuses, federal drug officials recently issued a “21st Century Code of Code” for highway interdiction teams.
And in late 2014, a local district attorney announced that his drug task force would no longer use civil forfeiture to take cash from drivers in their personal vehicles.
Tennessee lawmakers have already passed laws to clarify that couriers can be charged with money laundering under state law if they are caught with drug money and to give "policing for profit" victims quicker access to the courts.
New legislation is expected to be filed for the 2015 legislative session.
NewsChannel 5’s investigation was led by chief investigative reporter Phil Williams.
Other key members of the team were photojournalist Bryan Staples and NewsChannel 5 Investigates executive producer Kevin Wisniewski.
The “Policing for Profit” special aired Saturday, Dec. 27, at 7 p.m. on WTVF-TV, NewsChannel 5.
Watch it below: