Two comedians are suing over being searched for drugs at the Atlanta airport while boarding their flights. The stops and searches lack probably cause, and are generally based on racial profiling (duh).
- Clayton English “English was stopped while flying from Atlanta, where he lives, to Los Angeles for work on Oct. 30, 2020, the lawsuit says.”
- Eric André “had finished a shoot for HBO’s “The Righteous Gemstones” and was traveling from Charleston, South Carolina, to his home in Los Angeles on April 21, 2020, when he was stopped after a layover in Atlanta.”
Officers blocked them as they entered the jet bridge and asked if they were carrying illegal drugs, the lawsuit says. Both were asked to hand over their boarding passes and identification.
Profiling at airports happens all over the world. If you land in Japan, avoid standing in a customs line behind South Asians because they’re going to get far more scrutiny than you and the line will take awhile. In the U.S., don’t carry cash with you to the airport if you’re a minority.
Clayton County police officers and investigators from the county district attorney’s office selectively stop passengers in the narrow jet bridges used to access planes, the lawsuit says. The officers take the passengers’ boarding passes and identification and interrogate them, sometimes searching their bags, before they board their flights, the lawyers say in the lawsuit.
According to police, the stops in question are totally voluntarily. People just invite the cops to detain them and search them for drugs! Those silly passengers who have actual drugs on them are totally willing to have their drugs found. Sure…
Over a 9 month period, police stopped 402 passengers at the jet bridge in Atlanta. 68% of those were minorities. Fewer than 1% – just 3 – yielded ‘drug seizures’ which consisted of:
about 10 grams of drugs from one passenger, 26 grams of “suspected THC gummies” from another, and six prescription pills without a prescription from a third, the lawsuit says. Only the first and third person were charged.
Six prescription pills without a prescription, and that person was charged? Did you know, by the way, that many states make it illegal to use generic pill boxes (like those ‘7 day reminder’ boxes that you put each day’s pills into), since the packaging doesn’t include each pill’s prescription?
Why on earth would they bother stopping someone – more than one person per day – on the jet bridge with odds so low? They aren’t catching anyone moving weight. At most it’s 6 pills or 26 grams of gummies. That’s easy!
Those 402 stops also yielded more than $1 million in cash and money orders from a total of 25 passengers. All but one were allowed to continue their travels, and only two — the ones who also had drugs — were charged, the lawsuit says. Eight of the 25 challenged the seizures, and Clayton County police settled each case, returning much of the seized money, the lawsuit says.
Law enforcement gets to keep some of the money they seize, splitting it across different agencies (‘finders keepers’ or ‘you eat what you kill’). And they’re keeping the money from people who didn’t have drugs on them, and weren’t charged with any crime. Most people don’t even bother challenging the seizures. And when there’s a challenge, “police settled” means that the government had no justification for the seizure but still kept some of the money because the process to get all of it back is costly and cumbersome for the traveler.
By the way over the period 2007–2016 the DEA seized a total of $3.2 billion in cash with not a single conviction tied to the money.
More on the horrible practice of civil asset forfeiture: