Fabricated probable cause used to try and justify illegal traffic stops.

In video, Collinsville cop says he put drugs on random vehicles to test police dogs.

22 hours ago  •  By Marlon A. Walker mwalker@post-dispatch.com   314-340-8104

COLLINSVILLE • A video of a Collinsville police officer answering questions about drug-dog training is raising questions of whether his tactics amount to evidence tampering and possibly set up innocent motorists for unfair roadside searches later.

Officer Michael Reichert explains in a recording posted online that officers sometimes planted or smeared illicit drugs on vehicles parked overnight at businesses or motels, to test the dogs’ abilities.

The drugs would be retrieved, but he acknowledges that if the vehicle were stopped by other police later, a dog sniff could lead to the search of a motorist who would have no explanation for the scent.

The video, entitled “Lodging in Collinsville,” was put together by Terrance Huff, who earlier this year created “Breakfast in Collinsville.” It mocked Huff’s Dec. 4, 2011, traffic stop and drug search by Reichert as Huff and a friend passed through on the way home to Hamilton, Ohio, from a “Star Trek” exhibit in St. Louis.

Huff and the friend sued Reichert and the city for unspecified damages, leading to the pretrial deposition, on video, of Reichert.

Madison County Public Defender John J. Rekowski expressed outrage Thursday at what he saw.

“Is planting evidence a practice?” he asked. “Probably not by most law enforcement officials. That’s exactly what this is.”

He said it puts innocent people in jeopardy of a time-consuming search.

He also said the practice brings the sanctity of the evidence locker into question.

“I know of no authority that allows a police officer to take evidence out of the vault to do this,” Rekowski said. “It raises serious questions that we need to look at, and we’re looking at them, believe me. We’re quite curious about where this stuff came from, accounting for it, what he does (with the drugs) when he’s done.

“If he’s taking evidence from a case I’m handling and putting it back like it was never touched … that raises serious issues.”

State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons declined to comment, citing Huff’s litigation.

Calls to Collinsville Police Chief Eric Van Hook were not returned.

On the recording, Reichert tells Huff’s attorney that police cars as well as cars in junkyards and public parking lots have been used to train dogs.

“We’d go to a hotel or grocery store parking lots, throw (drugs) on U-Haul trucks … underneath big trucks and 18-wheelers and so forth,” Reichert says, acknowledging that it was sometimes done without the vehicle owner’s permission. And sometimes, he said, marijuana was wiped across a car door.

He said the dogs can detect the smell “for a time.”

The five-minute, 39-second video is derived from a five-hour deposition. Huff narrates the version he posted.

“If you’ve stayed at the Days Inn, Motel 6 or any hotel near the Bluff Road exit in Collinsville, you may have unknowingly had drugs or drug scent planted on your vehicle,” he says. “So imagine this: You wake up in your hotel. You gather your stuff and you check out. You hit the highway.

“While driving along, you pass this guy,” he says, as a police car comes into view. “He pulls you over for whatever reason, calls in a canine.”

He includes a scene from the CBS show “The Good Wife,” which shows the star and her children being pulled over by a fictional Madison County sheriff’s deputy.

Huff continues: “That gives the officer probable cause to search your car. You’re detained for as long as it takes to search through your car.”

The video uploaded to YouTube.com on Tuesday, had received about 6,400 views by Thursday afternoon. “Breakfast in Collinsville” had more than 428,000.

“I was just kind of stunned,” Huff said about the officer’s description of the tactics. “People who stayed in that area … should have a right to know those practices are going on.”

Marlon A. Walker covers Illinois general news for stltoday.com and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @marlonawalker

Source: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/in-video-collinsville-cop-says-he-put-drugs-on-random/article_8d4e6017-30a3-577c-9dd9-f27f64170369.html

Breakfast in Collinsville (with Michael Reichert)

Lodging in Collinsville (with Michael Reichert)

 

Terrance Huff Files Lawsuit Against Illinois Police Officer Michael Reichert Over ‘Trekkie Traffic Stop’

Posted: 05/08/2012 3:13 pm Updated: 05/08/2012 6:03 pm

Radley Balko – Radley.Balko@huffingtonpost.com

Filmmaker Terrance Huff has filed a lawsuit against the city of Collinsville, Illinois, and Collinsville police officer Michael Reichert over a traffic stop last December.

The suit was filed Tuesday morning in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. The Chicago law firm Meyer & Kiss is representing Huff and Jon Seaton, Huff’s passenger at the time of the stop.

The Huffington Post first reported this story in March. In dash cam video Huff later posted to YouTube, Reichert appears to engage in a number of constitutionally suspect interactions with Huff and Seaton along Interstate 70, just across the border from St. Louis.

Louis Meyer, the attorney representing Huff and Seaton, told HuffPost via email that his investigation has turned up more complaints against Reichert.

“We have discovered that Officer Reichert has a pattern and practice of fabricating probable cause to try and justify illegal traffic stops,” Meyer wrote. “After making these illegal traffic stops, Officer Reichert conducts illegal searches of the individuals and their vehicles. Once again, he fabricates probable cause by falsely claiming that his K9 ‘alerted’ to the presence of drugs in the vehicle.”

Meyer added that “others have come forward and are willing to testify regarding their encounters with this officer and how it affected them.”

Collinsville city officials did not return a request for comment.

As HuffPost reported in March, the traffic stop raised a number of questions about law enforcement, the drug war and the Fourth Amendment. It occurred along a stretch of highway know to be a lucrative source of asset forfeiture revenue for state and local police departments. Defense attorneys told HuffPost that stops like the one depicted in Huff’s video are common, and that police are known to manufacture traffic infractions to allow for such stops and then manufacture probable cause to conduct drug searches.

If police can establish even a slight connection to drug activity, officers can then seize drivers’ cars and cash, with proceeds going back to the police department. Under Illinois law, it can be very difficult and expensive for an innocent person to have their property returned, particularly for motorists who are from out of state, like Huff.

HuffPost spoke with professional dog trainers who said that in the video, Reichert appears to prompt his drug-sniffing dog to “alert” to the presence of narcotics in Huff’s car. The dog alert gave Reichert probable cause to search Huff’s car, but the search turned up no contraband.

HuffPost was also able to obtain records from one K9 unit with the Illinois State Police which show a high rate of false “alerts” with that unit over an 11-month period.

In 28 percent of cases in which the dog alerted, the subsequent hand search found no drugs at all. Another 36 percent of alerts resulted in the officer claiming to find “shake” or “residue” in quantities to small to measure. Because those searches didn’t result in arrests, there were no lab tests to confirm that what the officers found was actually illegal drug residue. Just one in four drug dog “alerts” resulted in police finding a measurable quantity of illegal drugs.

HuffPost also reported that Reichert has a record of questionable conduct. A federal judge reprimanded Reichert for his testimony in another case in which he pulled over a motorist and claimed to have found probable cause to conduct a drug search, and both the local U.S. attorney’s office and the county attorney’s office expressed a lack of confidence in Reichert’s integrity. Defense attorneys in the area told HuffPost that even among a group of police agencies already engaging in questionable stops and searches, Reichert is particularly notorious.

Shortly after the HuffPost report was published, Collinsville Police Chief Scott Williams told St. Louis Today that he stood behind Reichert, his department and the way local police agencies conduct stops and searches.

Williams said his department had received hundreds of emails and phone calls in response to the article, but dismissed most of them as “‘anti-law enforcement’ people.”

Referring to the way Reichert instructed his drug-sniffing dog in the Huff video, Williams told the paper, “While some people may think it’s distasteful, it’s clearly not illegal.”

Williams added, “Everything that we do is vetted through current law or Supreme Court rulings.”

Williams didn’t address Reichert’s history in his interview with St. Louis Today. But since our initial report, HuffPost has received complaints from several other motorists who have been stopped by Reichert as well as other officers in the area. More local defense attorneys have also since said they too have had clients with stories similar to Huff’s.

Meyer says he and Huff hope the lawsuit will prompt new training for police officers in the area, including proper discipline for officers who violate motorists’ civil rights.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/08/terrance-huff-michael-reichert-lawsuit-traffic-stop_n_1500394.html

5 comments to Fabricated probable cause used to try and justify illegal traffic stops.

  • Irving14941

    That’s why I don’t respect authority.

    Doesn’t mean I’m disrespectful. But it does mean that I’m suspicious, vigilant, and wary of them.

    I can smell the lies from a mile away.

  • It Happens

    The same thing happened to me. Seriously. I have no record and the officer said “your tail light flickered”. I do not do any drugs and nothing was found. The officer made up his mind that he was going to search my vehicle no matter what.

    I would like to think that most are good but the few are causing a big image problem for the rest. I now have a poor view of those that are “to serve and protect” :(

  • Backlash

    The Police Chief and others like him who support this behavior have no idea how they are undermining the faith and trust of the public. This is a call out to LEOs to do what is necessary to vet out your department of this kind of filth; their harassment and abuses of power reflect on you! I no longer trust you and I am not alone. A tarnished image like this takes years to wash away and innocent people get hurt in the mean time. Shame on you all for allowing this kind of crap to continue!

  • John

    Yes,cops serve and protect…only the wealthy elite. You are not one of them.
    I am not one of them.
    It appears that more and more cops are using unconstitutional practices in order to add another gold star to their records. No matter what the cost to the innocent individual who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
    This is just more evidence that America has become a police state…and the worst is yet to come: drones will soon be flying overhead spying on everything you do. Your phone calls, emails, texting, even the books you sign out of your local library are now under close scrutiny. Goodbye First Amendment.
    A recent former NSA whistle blower stated that ALL Americans are being spied on and recorded.
    According to the DHS:
    We are all now terrorist threats.
    We are all now enemy combatants.
    We can now be detained without probable cause or charge. Goodbye Fourth Amendment. Say so long to the Fifth Amendment.
    We can be tortured. Toss out the Sixth Amendment.
    We can be eliminated by presidential order.
    We have no Constitution
    We have no Bill of Rights.
    Cops now serve only one master.
    We are all now guilty until proven innocent.
    God help America…if there is a God.

  • intothevoid

    these are some great comments.

    @ John, flying drones will not be the only type of drone technology we will have to worry about.

    check out some other examples from two of my earlier posts, if you haven’t already viewed them yet, that will eventually be coming soon to a neighborhood near you:

    1) http://dont-tread-on.me/?p=24106

    2) http://dont-tread-on.me/?p=24110

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