A small Alabama town bled its residents dry with bogus fines. Now, they’re fighting back.
Police take an oath to protect and serve the public. But in Brookside, Alabama, a top-down scheme pushed by its police chief, mayor and council has prioritized something else instead: generating money. Hundreds of people tell similar stories about being pulled over for dubious reasons and charged with bogus violations. Many motorists were left stranded on the side of the road when their cars were towed without justification, often at night and with small children.
Brittany Coleman was one of the victims of Brookside’s policing for profit scheme. A recent University of Alabama graduate, she was pulled over by Brookside police for allegedly following her boyfriend’s car too closely, as they drove together to get lunch on her birthday. Without justification, the officer forced Brittany to stand handcuffed in the hot Alabama sun for more than 30 minutes as he searched her car. She was issued citations for tailgating and for marijuana possession. The possession charge was later dismissed because the police never actually found any marijuana. The officer told Brittany that, if not for the pandemic, he would have arrested her. Regardless, he ordered her car towed. Brittany was forced to pay Brookside nearly $1,000 in towing fees, fines, and court costs.
Brookside’s policing practices are deeply offensive—not only to common decency, but also the U.S. Constitution. Courts recognize that generating 10% of revenue from fines and fees raises a presumption of unconstitutionality; Brookside generated five times that. That’s why Brittany and three other victims of Brookside’s policing racket, represented by the Institute for Justice, are filing a class action lawsuit to affirm that police must act in the interest of justice, not their pocketbooks.
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