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2013 Lump of Coal Award Goes to Law Enforcement Agencies Guilty of ‘Policing for Profit’

Press release from The Beacon Center of Tennessee; December 17, 2013

NASHVILLE – The Beacon Center of Tennessee today announced that Tennesseans have overwhelmingly chosen the 23rd Judicial District, and Cheatham, Dickson, and Humphreys Counties as the recipients of the 2013 Lump of Coal Award.

The Beacon Center awards this dubious distinction annually to the person or group in Tennessee who, more than any other during the past year, acted as a Grinch to Tennesseans by bah-humbugging the principles of liberty and limited government.

The judicial district and three counties have become infamous for their use of a controversial tactic known as “policing for profit.” Abusing the state’s civil forfeiture laws, the agencies have begun seizing cash, vehicles, and other personal items in traffic stops, forcing the property owner to prove that the cash or property was not related to criminal activity. Innocent victims often spend months attempting to recoup seized property, sometimes to no avail.

An in-depth documentary by Nashville’s NewsChannel 5 revealed troubling facts about the practice, such as substantially more traffic stops on westbound Interstate lanes—where cash proceeds from drug sales frequently flow—while drugs traveling in the eastbound lanes were reportedly allowed to pass unfettered. Officers were also caught on camera admitting that they had little evidence that property was associated with a crime before seizing it anyway.

After the Beacon Center narrowed the list of offenders down to four finalists, the recipient of the Lump of Coal Award was chosen directly by Tennesseans in an online poll. The four law enforcement agencies received the most votes for the not-so-coveted prize, beating out Metro Nashville Public Schools, the Department of Labor & Workforce Development, and Hemlock Semiconductor with 40 percent of the vote.

“Tennesseans have sent a clear message that ‘policing for profit’ will not be tolerated,” said Beacon CEO Justin Owen. “This practice turns the Constitution on its head, and it’s time for lawmakers to heed the outcry of law-abiding citizens who want their property rights protected from this abuse, while still preserving the authority of law enforcement to target criminals.”

State legislators have indicated that they will study this issue and offer possible reforms to the state’s civil forfeiture laws when they reconvene next month. Earlier this year, the Beacon Center published a policy brief on the practice, which can be found at http://www.beacontn.org/2013/03/the-perils-of-policing-for-profit/.

The Beacon Center of Tennessee’s mission is to change lives through public policy by advancing the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government.

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Press Releases

TWRA to Sponsor ‘Outdoors-Woman Muzzleloader Workshop’ in Humphreys Co.

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Wildlife Resources; October 8, 2012: 

NASHVILLE — The 2012 Beyond Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Muzzleloader Workshop will be sponsored by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) Nov. 9-11 in Humphreys County.

Female hunters 18 and older will have the opportunity to learn about hunting deer during a weekend with like-minded individuals. The private farm for the event incorporates a variety of wildlife management practices and totals more than 2,000 acres of prime deer habitat. Along with the hunts, a variety of topics such as deer biology and management, and hunting ethics will also be covered.

Registration for the workshop is on a first-come, first-serve basis. However, two weeks priority will be given to first-time participants. The cost of the workshop is $175, which includes meals and camping, if participants wish to camp. Campers must provide their own gear. A list of local hotels will be included with the registration packet.

Workshop participants are required to have the appropriate licenses. Participants born on or after Jan. 1, 1969 will need to have successfully completed the hunter education course. Participants will draw from a number of predetermined sites that will have tree stands.

For an application, open the attachment below. For more information, contact Donald Hosse, TWRA Wildlife Education Program Coordinator, at Don.Hosse@tn.gov or (615) 781-6541.

Application.