Private contractors posing as cops have seized more than $40,000 in property from individuals targeted by an Oklahoma drug task force, the American Civil Liberties Union is alleging.
Law Enforcement officials in Caddo County, Okla., formed the task force, then outsourced its police work to the firm, Desert Snow LLC, the ACLU states. The advocacy group on Monday called on the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investgation to look into charges that Desert Snow employees set up drug stops on Interstate 40, pretending to be police officers. Falsely posing as a police officer is a misdemeanor crime in Oklahoma.
The private contractors “are operating law enforcement vehicles, pulling over motorists, questioning drivers and passengers and searching and detaining people and propertywhile armed with weapons capable of deadly force and wearing shirts with a badge or seal emblazoned on the breast,” alleged ACLU Legal Director Brady Henderson in a letter to the state.
Desert Snow founder Joe David admitted under oath that he personally pulled over a pregnant woman and questioned her without a real police officer present. David testified that he had a gun at the time.
The “counterfeit cops” have seized property belonging to citizens against whom no criminal charges have been filed, according to the ACLU, which also alleges that Desert Snow employees posing as real cops threaten motorists with arrest if they don’t hand over their property.
Desert Snow is a for-profit company. Hederson’s letter alleges that Caddo County District Attorney Jason Hicks agreed to pay the firm 25 percent of profits taken in in by the drug task force, while commissioning its employees as peace officers. Hicks has no authority to give peace officer status to a private individual, the ACLU says.
On July 2, a judge suspended the outsourcing program.