A three-year investigation by journalists from the Greenville News, the Anderson Independent Mail and USA Today, unearthed an incredibly sinister practice of unlawful forfeitures and seizures of innocent people’s property through numerous police departments in South Carolina.
The project is now known as the TAKEN project. Between 2014 and 2017, the team searched court documents, which weren’t online, interviewed many of the affected victims and gathered scores of data to determine that the citizens of South Carolina had money and other assets taken at the hands of the police and there were no repercussions even when the cops were caught lying and covering up information red-handed by judges.
Some of the people who had property or cash confiscated from them hadn’t even committed any crimes. Their items were merely taken due to “suspicion of wrongdoing.”
The team also discovered that these law enforcement agencies were funding huge chunks of their fiscal budgets with stolen property and liquid assets. Officials even tried to justify their actions by saying that the commandeered bounty played a vital part in making it possible to run drug task forces and K-9 units in the departments.
During the investigation, the journalists bore witness to the blatant lack of regard of people’s rights. Reporter, Nate Cary, witnessed police officers rifling through a passenger’s wallet looking for cash during a traffic stop on the side of a highway.
Anna Lee, another journalist involved with the project, discovered through court records that the police and other officials attempted to seize a Black elderly widow’s house solely because drug dealers in her neighborhood were slinging drugs on the corner of her property. It’s apparent that she didn’t give them permission to do so. She called the police numerous times for help and nothing happened. Instead of actually doing their jobs and putting the hoodlums behind bars, they treated her as if she was the problem.
An astounding 3,000 cases were examined over two years. And although both Blacks and whites were affected, an overwhelming 65% of the people whose assets were taken were Black men although Blacks as a whole only make up 13% of the state’s population.
Read more about the TAKEN project here.
*Reader Question* What punishment, if any, do you think officers who participated in the unlawful seizures should be given