Federal drug enforcement officials have issued a new code of conduct for highway police intended to help curb the number of questionable civil seizures of cash and property from motorists, reports the Washington Post. Senior officials in the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program said they are doing so to remind local and state police about the need to honor Constitutional values and the civil rights of motorists. The code is voluntary.
The code emphasizes the importance of traffic safety and the restrained use of an aggressive enforcement technique known as “highway interdiction,” which often involves large numbers of traffic stops by officers looking for drugs, illicit cash and other contraband. The code, a series of bullet points, was issued last month at the national conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Orlando. “Emphasize interdiction programs are NOT purposed for enhancing agency budgets,” the document says. “Underscore forfeited ill-gotten proceeds be spent prudently in accordance with applicable statutes, sound policies and regulations.” A Washington Post investigation found that local and state police seized more than $2.5 billion in cash from motorists and others since Sept. 11, 2001, without warrants or indictments.