This Activist is Prying Loose Missouri Drug Task Force Records One Lawsuit At a Time

Malin’s quest began in 2013, when he was driving to a local conference on drug legalization. At the highway exit ramp to the conference, he was stopped at a “license and registration” checkpoint set up by police.

“It was almost certainly unconstitutional,” Malin says in an interview with Reason. “They were stopping every car just to check drivers licences, and of course smell their cars to develop probable cause for a search, on suspicion that people attending the event might very well be in possession of marijuana.”

Malin suspected the checkpoint was set up just to harass and potentially arrest conference goers, so he fired off a public records request to find out more about it. He was surprised learn that it had been set up by the local sheriff and a regional drug task force. Missouri had 27 drug task forces—multi-jurisdictional law enforcement agencies, funded by a combination of federal and state grants, prosecuting the drug war across the state.

“No one was aware we had these drug task forces in operation,” Malin says. “Even the people who approved their budget weren’t aware of what they were. They have incredible multi-jurisdictional arrest power and limited oversight and transparency. They’re essentially given block grant funding and told, ‘Here’s a quarter million dollars a year. Go fight the war on drugs and kick down some doors.'”

Malin decided to dig into how these drug task forces were funded and how they operated. He began filing freedom of information requests to prosecutors’ offices, drug task forces, and local law enforcement agencies. While some were prompt and professional, many ignored Malin’s requests or offered increasingly strange rationales for secrecy.

Some drug task forces claimed they were wholly exempt from state public record law. Another denied his request for routine quarterly reports, citing a section of Missouri law that protects records involving terrorism.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 3206 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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