'Policing For Profit' Compromise Clears Key House Vote

'Policing For Profit' Compromise Clears Key House Vote

By Phil Williams. CREATED Mar 26, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A compromise, designed to protect innocent people who have their cash taken by police, sailed through a House subcommittee Tuesday afternoon.

That new development was a direct result of NewsChannel 5's two-year "Policing for Profit" investigation.

In the end, there wasn't much debate at all. That's because, according to the bill's sponsor, even the law enforcement community has now come to agree that there's a problem.

The unanimous vote marked a major development in a debate that began last year.

The sponsor, Rep. Barrett Rich, R-Somerville, is a former state trooper who says he was motivated by the "Policing For Profit" abuses uncovered by NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

Those abuses led police to take cash from innocent victims based on little more than their suspicion that it might be drug money.

That money is used by some agencies to fund their operations.

Here's what Rich's compromise bill would do:

Individuals who are not arrested would be entitled to a hearing before a judge to decide if the officer really did have probable cause to take their cash. Currently, those initial hearings are, by law, "ex parte" -- meaning only the officer's side can be heard.

Those individuals would be allowed to present evidence -- check statements, for example -- showing that the money was legitimate.

But the judge would not be allowed to ask police about whether the traffic stop was motivated by confidential information. That's designed to protect on-going criminal investigations.

"I think that we have a really good shot at passing this," Rich said after the vote. "It is going to be something that is a protection measure for people that are truly the most innocent among us."

The compromise now has the support of the state's district attorneys and sheriffs.

As a result, Rich predicted, it will become law.

If it passes, it would take effect at the first of the year. That's to give the courts time to put the procedures into place.

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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. His investigations have earned him journalism's highest honors.