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Tiny AL Town Is Growing Its Police Force By Fining Everyone In Sight

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  • Tiny AL Town Is Growing Its Police Force By Fining Everyone In Sight

    The tiny town of Brookside Alabama has figured out a nice easy hack to explode their income to absurd levels: get the police to fine literally everyone, and straight up make up violations to fine people for. It's gotten to a point that cops now have to direct traffic around the town's courthouse to direct the thousands of people coming in to pay or fight their fines.

    Traffic stops and fines/forfeitures soared between 2018 and 2019, and skyrocketed in 2020 to make up over 49% of the town's revenue. Overall there's been an over 600% increase in revenue since the scheme began. And they've hired more and more officers to continue (before the scheme began there was one officer on full time and a couple part-time officers), to the point they're now at a ratio of 1 officer for every 144 residents, far above the national average.

    Finally, a number of people have begun legal proceedings to sue the town, including a Reverend who was pulled over in his brand new car for having paper tags (he'd just bought the car and paper tags are quite legal) - when he asked if it was normal for them to pull over folks like that, he was called a racial slur by one of the cops. Then, when he attempted to file a complaint, he and his sister were charged with impersonating officers (with zero evidence of such a thing ever happening). The department posted their pictures on their department Facebook page with the accusation of impersonating officers, which then led to the website Crime Stoppers picking it up and publicizing the charges further, telling people to be on the lookout for these 'criminals', until the charges were finally dropped some time later. In their suit, the judge has said that while the original stop cannot be sued for under qualified immunity, the made up charges are so bizarre that they can continue their suit against the police department.

    And apparently the malicious use of civil asset forfeiture (something that has long needed to be done away with) is quite popular in Alabama, especially this police department.

    https://reason.com/2022/01/19/a-tiny...body-in-sight/
    A Tiny Alabama Town Is Growing Its Police Force by Fining Everybody in Sight

    Brookside officers have been accused of fabricating violations and are being sued.


    Brookside, Alabama, has a population of less than 1,500 people. For most of the past decade it saw little crime—only 55 major crimes in eight years, none homicide or rape.

    But in the past couple of years, the tiny town has generated an outsized police force, and today the Birmingham News reports why. The mayor and police force there are looking to fine anybody they can to bring in revenue.

    Birmingham News columnist John Archibald reports, "In a two-year period between 2018 and 2020 Brookside revenues from fines and forfeitures soared more than 640 percent and now make up half the city's total income." According to the records Archibald reviewed, Brookside as of 2020 was arresting more people for misdemeanors than it has residents. The police there fine so many people that they have to direct traffic around town hall for the monthly municipal court because there are so many people there trying to contest the charges against them.

    Revenue into the town jumped from $431,637 in 2016 to $1,233,469 in 2020. That jump wasn't from tax receipts. The only commercial taxes generated in Brookside are from a single Dollar General store. The town raked in $610,000 in fines and forfeitures (from seizures of cars in traffic stops). Not only is half its budget coming from fining travelers, the amount the police are bringing in is more than its entire revenue stream just five years ago.

    If the idea that a former mining town a few miles north of Birmingham is a hotbed of speeders and reckless drivers seems more than a bit suspect, a read through the cases Archibald describes shows exactly what you might expect. The police there are looking for any reason they can find to pull people over and cite them:
    Brookside officers have been accused in lawsuits of fabricating charges, using racist language and "making up laws" to stack counts on passersby. Defendants must pay thousands in fines and fees—or pay for costly appeals to state court—and poorer residents or passersby fall into patterns of debt they cannot easily escape.

    Archibald reports the terrible tale of Rev. Vincent Witt, who was pulled over at a stop sign in Brookside by a cop because he had a paper tag. Witt's car was a new purchase, and the tag was legitimate. Witt says he asked if Brookside pulled everybody over like this and says the police officer called him a racial slur and told him to stay out of the town.

    Witt called the police department to file a complaint and was told he would have to do so in person. Then things turned bizarre. Witt and his sister (who was not even in the car with him) were subsequently charged with impersonating police officers. Brookside put their pictures up on their Facebook page, and web site Crime Stoppers featured their photos as suspects. The case was eventually dropped after damaging the Witts' reputation.

    Witt and his sister have sued in federal court for malicious prosecution. Brookside has claimed that the officers involved are entitled to qualified immunity from the lawsuit. As perhaps an indicator of how big the problem is in Brookside, District Court Judge Abdul Kallon for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama only allowed immunity for the stop itself. He ruled that the "bizarre" police behavior afterward was not protected. "Given the alleged and, truthfully, bizarre conduct—issuing and approving fabricated charges against Pastor Witt and Ms. Witt for impersonating police officers, without probable cause, and publicizing the charges on Facebook and Crime Stoppers in retaliation for Pastor Witt's complaint—the court is unconvinced that [the officers] are entitled to qualified immunity."

    Alabama police have significant incentives to engage in forfeiture. In the latest state-by-state analysis of civil asset forfeiture by the Institute for Justice, Alabama gets a D- grade for its forfeiture laws. The state doesn't track or report forfeiture spending; the threshold for police to claim the property by saying it's connected to a crime is much lower than the threshold to actually convict somebody of a crime; and they get to keep 100 percent of what they seize. People who are caught up in forfeiture attempts are forced to prove they aren't criminals in order to get the property back, turning the concept of presumed innocence on its head.

    Brookside is certainly a case study in the lack of accountability for police funding and spending. The police chief and mayor told Archibald they don't even know how the money from the fines has been spent. The town doesn't even have a formal budgeting process. But as the fines rolled in, funding for police skyrocketed 560 percent. The fines were being used to pay for police officers, who then needed to keep finding people to fine to keep getting paid.

    If anything Witt was lucky they didn't try to seize his new car.

    We'll end with this incredible and telling quote from Brookside's police chief, Mike Jones, who really does not see a problem here at all and thinks funding his town with fines is a "positive story."

    "I see a 600% increase—that's a failure," Jones told Archibald. "If you had more officers and more productivity you'd have more. I think it could be more."

    More detailed reporting: https://www.al.com/news/2022/01/poli...lack-hole.html
    "So when you actually get the virus, you're going to start producing antibodies against multiple pieces of the virus. So, your antibodies are probably better at that point than the vaccination."
    - Pfizer Scientist Chris Croce

  • #2
    Reminds me of the former village of New Rome in Ohio which became nationally infamous for its speed trap, abusive police force, and corrupt village government.

    https://www.caranddriver.com/feature...-without-pity/
    Some may call me foolish, and some may call me odd
    But I'd rather be a fool in the eyes of man
    Than a fool in the eyes of God


    From "Fools Gold" by Petra

    Comment


    • #3
      Some years back there were some suburbs of St. Louis that made big chunks of their revenue by having a small portion of I-70 on it. In the abstract I don't have a problem with them using that as a disproportionate revenue source. But if this police department has a habit of making up criminal charges out of whole cloth, some people need to be doing time.
      "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

      Comment


      • #4
        Sometimes "Back the Blue" is wrong, and "Defund the Police" is right.
        Geislerminian Antinomian Kenotic Charispneumaticostal Gender Mutualist-Egalitarian.

        Beige Federalist.

        "Everybody is somebody's heretic."

        Social Justice is usually the opposite of actual justice.

        Proud member of the LGBFJB community.

        Would-be Grand Vizier of the Padishah Maxi-Super-Ultra-Hyper-Mega-MAGA King Trumpius Rex.

        Justice for Ashli Babbitt!

        Justice for Matthew Perna!

        Comment


        • #5
          Yeah, way back in the late 80s, early 90s, there were some Texas towns notorious for being speed traps, and other abuses of law enforcement, including, most troubling, asset forfeiture.

          Governor (I believe it was Bush back then) authorized the Texas Rangers to mount an extensive sting operation.... purposely getting pulled over in these towns to document the abuses.

          One of the most egregious, oddly enough, was a small community NW of Houston that was subsequently pretty much shut down. I actually got a speeding ticket there, showed up at the "city hall" to request an opportunity to take Driver's Education in lieu of a fine, and the lady scribbled something down on a piece of paper, handed it to me, and said "we'll mail you the form". Never heard a word.
          The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

          Comment


          • #6
            I have a device in my car that helps me go through speed traps without getting caught. I have never been stopped.
            When I Survey....

            Comment


            • #7
              I think this town is gonna get shut down after this publicity. Betting the sheriff and mayor will either get charged or quietly slink off into the shadows.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Sparko View Post
                I think this town is gonna get shut down after this publicity. Betting the sheriff and mayor will either get charged or quietly slink off into the shadows.
                Minor technicality, but I don't think the Sheriff has anything to do with this -- I think this is city or municipality, not "the county".

                On another note, it's interesting that Alabama seems to take the lead in abuse of forfeiture laws.
                The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post

                  Minor technicality, but I don't think the Sheriff has anything to do with this -- I think this is city or municipality, not "the county".

                  On another note, it's interesting that Alabama seems to take the lead in abuse of forfeiture laws.
                  Sorry, "Police Chief and Mayor"

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Sparko View Post

                    Sorry, "Police Chief and Mayor"
                    Yeah, the main reason I brought that up is because a Sheriff is generally elected by and accountable to the public, where a police chief can be a political hack appointee.

                    I suspect that's the case here.
                    The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post

                      Yeah, the main reason I brought that up is because a Sheriff is generally elected by and accountable to the public, where a police chief can be a political hack appointee.

                      I suspect that's the case here.
                      Yep.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Sparko View Post

                        Yep.
                        I wouldn't be surprised if the police chief was the mayor's son-in-law or something.
                        The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Police chief has resigned, after a week or so of using social media to defend his nonsense and attack anyone criticizing him:
                          https://www.al.com/news/2022/01/broo...ffic-trap.html


                          One of his very interesting replies to a senate candidate who posted a link to the story on facebook was this:
                          “I strongly suggest you take the time to research the truth of the story before posting comments. Especially if you expect to run for public office on the State of Alabama. I am the Chief of Police of this department. I am a highly awarded and decorated 27 year State of Alabama law enforcement veteran choosing to continue serving in public office. I also serve on the AACOP executive board of Directors as the Emergency Response Committee Chairman with the Alabama Association of Chief’s of Police as well as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, & FBI LEEDA.”


                          Putting aside the veiled threat of someone's political aspirations for posting a news story, it looks like he gave a very good list of organizations that DEFINITELY need to be carefully investigated for fraudulent and illegal activities (and potential abuses of citizens), given his direct and highly-placed involvement in them, considering what he got caught doing just as Chief of Police of that small town.
                          "So when you actually get the virus, you're going to start producing antibodies against multiple pieces of the virus. So, your antibodies are probably better at that point than the vaccination."
                          - Pfizer Scientist Chris Croce

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Oooh, it gets even juicier than the chief resigning
                            https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...-comments.html


                            https://www.al.com/news/2022/01/broo...s-critics.html



                            Brookside police patrolled social media, threatening town’s critics

                            Michelle Jones made an official complaint to the Alabama Attorney’s General’s office three years ago, arguing that Brookside police stopped her out of jurisdiction, issued a bogus citation and threatened her with more charges after she criticized them on Facebook.




                            She thought the complaint was long forgotten or closed.




                            But on Wednesday morning, she said, she got a call from the Alabama Attorney General’s investigator who had worked the case after her complaint was filed in 2019,

                            “He informed me that my case was never closed,” said Jones, who lives in Forestdale near Birmingham.








                            In 2020, she had explained her case this way to the AG’s office: “The person threatened me with an arrest if I did not take down my Facebook pictures and posts of their police officers, stop sending emails to the local politicians, as well as others, and show them (Brookside police) that I understand law enforcement practices.”

                            Jones is not alone in complaining about Brookside. Stories from people stopped in the ticket-happy town continue to roll down like an avalanche, since AL.com last week published the story of how the tiny town turned to aggressive ticketing to build a ballooning police force that came to provide half the town’s revenue.








                            Police Chief Mike Jones has since resigned, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth has requested an audit of Brookside’s town and police force, and lawmakers across party lines have called for bills to help curb small-town policing for profit on Alabama Interstates.








                            The accounts told to AL.com detail harassment and intimidation. They tell, with consistency, of specious tickets and arrests, of retaliation by a police department and by a chief who challenged those who questioned him as he sought to build an empire on the backs of drivers.

                            Stephanie Franklin, a Jefferson County employee, told AL.com she was a passenger in a car stopped last year for an expired tag. She said she tried to record the interaction after three officers in two vehicles pulled her car over, but an officer with a “valknot” symbol – a Norse sign sometimes appropriated by white supremacists – on a ring and one of his gun clips confiscated her phone.








                            “The officer said ‘We have had people stop and record us,” she said, “like it explained his actions.”








                            Franklin said she believes the only reason she wasn’t arrested was because she works for Jefferson County. Others weren’t so fortunate.








                            Another woman, Emily Sierra, emailed AL.com to say she was pulled over in Brookside three years ago for a single flash of her lights to warn oncoming traffic about a speed trap.








                            “There were two cars and one SUV that surrounded my car and police were everywhere,” she wrote. “They gave me a ticket for running a stop sign. I clearly did not run the stop sign as I had just seen them sitting on top of I-22 overpass. I have never been in any trouble – only had one speeding ticket. They were shining these flashlights in my car and it was daylight. I was scared to death even though I was doing nothing wrong.”

                            Neither the police nor the town have responded to questions since the original story ran.








                            For Michelle Jones, it has been a dedicated three-year fight. Brookside police gave her a ticket in May of 2019 for running a stop sign at Roberta Road and Cherry Avenue across I-22 from Brookside. She insists – like many others stopped by Brookside police – that she did not run the stop sign at all. Jones says she was polite to the officer, but was convinced the ticket was unfounded and given outside the Brookside police jurisdiction.








                            She set out to challenge it. But not in the courtroom. She paid the $160 ticket and began to make her case through emails to public officials, complaints, a television interview and elsewhere. She complained directly to then-Brookside Police Chief Mike Jones.








                            In an email to her May 29, 2019, Mike Jones defended the stop, and the ability to ticket outside of Brookside.








                            “A Peace Officer sworn in the State of Alabama can enforce the law anywhere in the State of Alabama,” he wrote in an email. “They are sworn Law Enforcement Officers certified by the Alabama Peace Officers Standards Training (sic) Commission. Arrest powers are not confined to city limits or jurisdictional boundaries except within the State of Alabama.”








                            The real trouble for Michelle Jones began as she started posting on her Facebook page when she saw Brookside police stopping people in places she thought were out of bounds.

                            “Police Trap,” she posted in June of 2019. “Brookside Police Department of Brookside, AL spotted in the Jefferson County Sheriff Department District at Roberta Road and Cherry Avenue.”








                            And in July, “Brookside Police Department of Brookside, AL operating outside its city limits. This is at the corner of Roberta Road and Mulberry Road, which is far away from their city limits.”








                            What happened next was shocking to her.








                            On July 10th, 2019, 16 days after she paid her ticket, her phone rang. On the other end was a caller ID’d as coming from the Brookside Town Hall, she said. The caller identified himself as a “Det. Johnson,” though it is unclear if Brookside had a Detective Johnson.








                            He told her she was a wanted woman.








                            She spelled it out in her complaint to the AG’s office – and in notes to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, county commissioners and others.








                            “Detective Johnson had called and asked that I come to the Brookside Police Department to talk to them. After I told him that I would not, he reported that they have two warrants for my arrest. He stated that I issued threats, incited a riot, and slandered the Brookside Police Department in my Facebook posts. He reported that his Police Chief was mad.”


                            An investigator with the AG responded to her, and she spelled it out again in 2020.








                            The AG’s office this week would not confirm or deny to AL.com the existence of any case involving Brookside.








                            In his call to Jones this week, the investigator said “he could not tell me anything because of the ongoing investigation,” Jones said.








                            In Brookside, complaints about retaliation have come time and time again, as in the case of Rev. Vincent Witt and his sister, Tareya, who said the small police department fabricated charges against them and listed them as fugitives because Witt complained about an officer’s racist remark.








                            Even the claims of retaliation for social media posts are not unusual in Brookside.

                            Alabama Senate candidate Lisa Ward said ex-Chief Jones tried to intimidate her in a social media message after she shared the AL.com story on Facebook.








                            And a Brookside man told AL.com police in the town pulled him over with blue lights and told him there would be consequences if he posted more about the police on Facebook.








                            The man is still afraid of retaliation, and asked for anonymity. He said police accused him of running a stop sign “that I never did run,” and he complained about it on Facebook. Two or three days later Brookside police stopped him again.








                            Not for speeding, or running a stop sign, or any violation. But for this:








                            The officer said “‘the chief’s pretty upset about that post you put on Facebook.’” the Brookside man told AL.com. The officer went on to say “‘any more backlash like that towards his police department and it’ll be far worse than a ticket.”








                            “I just stared at him,” the man said. “I was just looking at him like, so this is what this stop is about?”








                            “I was in pure shock,” he told AL.com.



                            The accounts of drivers – dozens of them – are strikingly similar. They often say they had no idea why they were pulled over while passing near Brookside on Interstate 22. Time after time they say they were pulled over by multiple officers in multiple vehicles for minor charges such as expired tag or following too closely, that they were searched, towed, and forced to pay large fines for violations many say they did not commit.








                            Michelle Jones said she has had friends, acquaintances and family members stopped in Brookside. She has watched and documented stops there.








                            “What I noticed the pattern to be among us is this: If you are in the car by yourself, you’re gonna get a ticket,” she said. “If you have a witness with you, they’re gonna issue you a warning.”








                            She didn’t think it was fair.








                            “I felt that basically, that this was a way for them to make money to fund their city off the backs of citizens from other areas. And so that’s why I decided to fight.”

                            "So when you actually get the virus, you're going to start producing antibodies against multiple pieces of the virus. So, your antibodies are probably better at that point than the vaccination."
                            - Pfizer Scientist Chris Croce

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Stuff like this gives police a bad name. While I generally support the police, this is indefensible. We have to admit, there are bad policemen - as painful as that can be to our reality.

                              as the expression goes "Who watches the watchmen?"
                              "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

                              "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

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