Your Money or Your Life? Fairfax County Cops Say, “We’ll Take Both”

It’s been said that Fairfax County does not have cops, it has tax collectors, and in many ways that’s true; When the county’s ill-trained, trigger-happy, roid-raging warrior cops aren’t occupying themselves  by robbing unarmed people of their very lives, they are busy committing literal highway robbery. Let us count the ways.

1.Civil Asset Forfeiture

For those that don’t know, civil asset forfeiture is the kind of legal racket that could only have been dreamed up by a very specific type of criminal mind – the kind that seeks elected office. It allows law enforcement agencies to seize cash and other property from people based on suspicion that it is the proceeds of criminal activity or will be used in criminal activity. It was framed as a means of taking resources from large criminal enterprises and funneling money back into crime prevention activities. Instead it’s been used as an excuse to turn anyone carrying cash into a suspected criminal, including people traveling with cash to buy a used car, or build a new church with members’ cash donations, and for purposes as ridiculous as hiring clowns, and buying margarita machines and even tanning salons.

We all fleece down here!
To be fair, the clown was intended for a new Scared Straight program. Just kidding, but who better than Pennywise to get young punks back in line?

The agencies involved are interested in cash, not convictions, so the person who has their property seized is usually not even charged with a crime.  If they want to get their property back, they have to be able to invest significant time and money to go to court to fight for it. Police departments often use the threat of prosecution to keep people from seeking to recover their assets. One particularly nasty department in Texas even threatened to take away people’s children if they didn’t agree to forfeit their property.

It’s a terrible practice that’s rife with abuse, so naturally the Fairfax County Police Department is an eager participant, collecting around $13-14 million in fines and forfeitures each year.

bmw-e36-police-car-02
If you’ve got it, flaunt it, even if you probably ruined some poor schmoe’s life for no reason

$17,550 of their haul for 2012 came from Mandrel Stuart, an unfortunate motorist from Staunton, Virginia who was traveling through Fairfax County on his way to DC.  Fairfax County cops pulled him over  for having windows that were tinted too dark, even though they didn’t have a device with them that could measure if the tint was actually too dark or not.

Stuart made the classic mistake of answering the many questions of the officers who pulled him over, allowing enough time to pass for a drug-sniffing dog to be called to the scene. The drug-sniffing dog turned up just 0.01 gram of marijuana, but police officers found Stuart’s cash inside a brown paper bag he had in the car. Stuart operated a small restaurant; He had been planning to buy equipment and supplies from an acquaintance.

After detaining Stuart and his girlfriend for 2 hours, the cops let them go, minus the cash. It took Stuart 14 months to win his money back in court, at a cost of nearly $12,000 in legal fees. Fairfax County had to cover those fees when a jury decided the case in Stuart’s favor. However, even though he won, he lost. Unable to pay rent and his employees after his cash was stolen, he had to close his restaurant and now works in construction.

2. Overzealous Gambling Enforcement

As unfortunate as Stuart’s tale is, some might say he is lucky to have made out with his life. The family and friends of Sal Culosi speculate that he was targeted by an undercover detective for making casual wagers on college football solely because he made a good living as an optometrist and had more money than the rest of the group of friends he bet with. In 2006, Culosi was accidentally shot and killed by a member of the SWAT team they sent to serve an arrest warrant on him. A $2 million dollar settlement was eventually paid to his family.

Sal Culosi
“My son would still be alive today, but for 2006 Fairfax County policies to routinely use SWAT and aggressive procedures against citizens certified to be low risk.” –Sal Culosi’s father in 2015

I would say that was an expensive lesson to learn, but if there’s one thing that the Fairfax County Department excels at, it’s not learning lessons. They are still sending the SWAT team after nonviolent illegal gamblers, putting them at unnecessary risk of injury and death.  Tom Jackman of the Washington Post describes a raid from last year:

On a quiet weeknight among the stately manors of Great Falls, ten men sat around a table in the basement of a private home last November playing high stakes poker. Suddenly, masked and heavily armed SWAT team officers from the Fairfax County Police Department burst through the door, pointed their assault rifles at the players and ordered them to put their hands on the table. The players complied. Their cash was seized, including a reported $150,000 from the game’s host, and eight of the ten players were charged with the Class 3 misdemeanor of illegal gambling, punishable by a maximum fine of $500.

The players were baffled by the show of force sent after “a bunch of consenting adults playing cards in somebody’s basement,” in the words of one player. “They could’ve sent a retired detective with a clipboard and gotten the same result.” Fairfax County cut a deal to drop charges against the players, a deal that allowed law enforcement to keep 40% of the cash they seized, which is what they were after all along anyway.

3. Ticket Quotas

Police departments have long been rumored to engage in ticketing schemes for the purpose of revenue generation. In Fairfax County, we know for a fact that they do. The Washington Post obtained a memo specifically outlining an expectation that officers would have at least 2 traffic stops per day, with at least one of them being a summons.

 

Screenshot of memo

See the full memo 

Chief Roessler dismissed the memo as a mistake and said there were no quotas in effect, but the department’s pattern of prioritizing collecting money above legitimate public safety issues is so well-documented, it’s somehow hard to believe him.

While Fairfax County cops scramble to wring as much money out of residents and visitors as possible, they neglect offenses with actual victims, like rape. The state-wide inventory mandated by the state legislature uncovered that Fairfax County had the highest number of untested rape kits in the entire state. At 347, they had nearly 100 more untested kits than Richmond, the agency with the 2nd highest number of kits, and their 2014 closure rate for forcible sex offenses was 57.89%. They do a bit better at solving homicides with a 70% closure rate, but there were also only 10 homicides in the county last year.

There are no financial incentives for police to target crimes like rape, theft, and fraud. There are no lucrative assets to seize, and no state or federal programs funding and arming police with military equipment to address those crimes the way there are for victimless crimes like narcotics and traffic enforcement, and so those crimes become less of a priority for police departments. That is exactly what we see in Fairfax County.

Larceny/theft is by far the most common crime residents report, but the clearance rate is a mere 29.55%. The Department collects millions of license plate photographs each year, tracking the movements of unknown numbers of residents and passerby each day, yet the case closure rate for stolen cars is still only 31.83%. The drug/narcotics clearance rate is nearly stratospheric at 78.74%, though. Pro-tip: If your car gets stolen, just tell the cops you think the guy who took it had some pot on him or was placing bets on how many cars he could steal. They might actually be interested in pursuing the case that way.

This is the third article in the Why We Protest series.

Join us at our August 4th protest in Fairfax!

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  • Yomammaaho

    Copsuckers hate so many subject matters in one article.
    The sheer volume of truths to defend will take them the rest of the weekend to decipher.

  • JC

    Another bullshit article. Most of the advice you gave will only get you into trouble. More copblockers in jail. That sounds about right.

  • Yankeefan

    I do not think you trolled hard enough you Auschwitz reject! Try again, Slappy! Or respond to me in one of the 30 names you have created. By the way, what makes it bullcrap? Respond to the article, which you never do!

  • RadicalDude

    Where does the article give any “advice”?

  • Resit

    Amendment V
    No person shall be held to answer for a
    capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or
    indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval
    forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or
    public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to
    be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any
    criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life,
    liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private
    property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

    JC, do you really believe that civil asset forfeiture is not a violation of Americans’ Constitutional rights? Assets can be seized on suspicion alone and without due process of law.

  • Resit

    The story about the man that was killed by SWAT enforcing a warrant for a misdemeanor gambling charge, really strikes a cord with me. I have a neighbor 2 houses down from me and on the other side of my street that has been raided by SWAT 4 times in the 6yrs I have lived in the neighborhood.

    Keep in mind this is not some ghetto, it is a nice neighbor hood in a small (under 250k) city. Each time it is the same, they drive an armored car or sometimes a city bus (I guess those times the armored car is already in use breaking up a child’s birthday party or something) into my neighbor’s front yard. Then a dozen or more men in full ballistic vest, ski mask, and assault rifles pour out of the armored car and kick in the door. They linger in the yard for about 4hrs throwing mean looks at anyone, like myself, that comes out to watch while a few of them tear up the house.

    I am assuming they never find anything of significance because my neighbor is usually back at home after a few days trying to put his door back together.

    After the 4th raid, I called the local PD to complain and got transferred to a Sgt. who informs me that it is not SWAT but a narcotics task force, like that makes a fucking difference to me. Then I ask, if my neighbor is some type of super criminal that would justify this level of force why is he not in prison after the first raid? Sgt. Shitforbrains then starts trying to explain “levels of force” to me. I end the conversation by telling him that his department is using the wrong level of force repeatedly and is putting the neighborhood, my family, and myself in danger.

    My neighbor is a shade tree mechanic with a tool set most men would drool over. I wonder how many tools disappear after each one of these raids?

  • JC

    Larry, Larry, Larry. Lets talk about your criminal record. How many times have you been arrested? I know how many.

  • Shawn

    In other words, you can’t answer as to why it is crap.

  • Shawn

    Cops and the government have no interest in winning the drug war. What is in it for them to do so? Well, we won’t need nearly as many cops. I bet they’d love to see layoffs of cops…not. The activities they enjoy so much like raiding homes will end. A major source of money will be lost. A Boogeyman excuse for excessive actions will be lost. Cops would loose a lot of the power they love, and be returned to traditional LE activity like fighting real crime.

    Or they can just take money and let those obtaining the money for them go free and keep the cycle going. Think the drug dealers really mind this deal? Keeps them in business.

    And to keep this happy game going, cops and their boot lickers are happy to have the rest of us in the cross hairs and paying the price for their game. Like this farce of Civil Asset Forfeiture. The rules get stacked against the defendant, who suddenly is required to prove his innocence for the first time in US history. A real american value, isn’t it? And he gets to do it in a court that has no interest in protecting the innocent.

    Even the Regan people who started it have turned on it for its misuse. Though t, common, and the others will ignore that part.

  • Yankeefan

    Why is it crap? Your comment above is why you are a troll! That’s why you are a copblock shill! They would have banned you long ago!

  • I’m beginning to think you’re a bot, JC. You often make the exact same comments. “It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out”. Seen that verbatim a million times.

    And now this, your response has absolutely NOTHING to do with the article. It looks like a response we’d see for a different type of article.

    I think the reason we all can’t imagine an actual person could have such a skewed view and also be so fucking stupid is because your responses are some of the most ignorant I’ve ever seen.

    It all makes sense now. You’re just a bot, triggering responses based on keywords in the articles. I wonder who programmed you??

    I think we need to do a Turning Test on JC.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test

  • DeadPigGoodPig

    Have you ever seen what it looks like when you roll a red-hot spoon across somebody’s iris?

  • Chris Rickard

    Strawman.

  • hbs4y2001@yahoo.com
  • hbs4y2001@yahoo.com

    Ill be brief.

    FUCK YOU

  • Yankeefan

    This make you look smarter how? Keep trolling slappy!

  • Rick Johnson

    His reply is only interesting in the fact that everyone here that has replies has never lived in Fairfax County, VA. As a long time resident of Vienna, VA ( and before any of you start with your usual name calling attacks, especially Yankeefan, Vienna is in Fairfax County). Your articles, meant to be informative I’m sure, come of as very third hand, or fourth hand knowledge. Doesn’t mean they aren’t true, but come off like you’re telling a campfire story. Once upon a time in Fairfax County………All of your “examples would have names and locations. They would all, not just one or two confirmed ones that are already commonly known, would be part of public record. Let’s stick to more facts, and less campfire cheerleading stuff just to rile up the masses.

  • WD!

    Is a “tuning test” when you set something on fire? If so I agree ?

  • WD!

    Take a dirt nap scumbag.

  • A Turing test is a test a person does with an “entity” to see if the “entity” is a machine or an actual human. It’s named after the famed WWII British Cryptologist Alan Turning. I’m beginning to think JC may just be AI. So that means the rest of us should just ignore him. It’s the same as thing as talking to an ATM machine. You can talk to it all you want, that doesn’t mean it’s just gonna hand over money.

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