Update from Radley Balko:
Filmmaker Terrance Huff has filed a lawsuit against the city of Collinsville, Illinois, and Collinsville police officer Michael Reichert over a traffic stop last December.
The suit was filed Tuesday morning in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. The Chicago law firm Meyer & Kiss is representing Huff and Jon Seaton, Huff’s passenger at the time of the stop.
The Huffington Post first reported this story in March. In dash cam video Huff later posted to YouTube, Reichert appears to engage in a number of constitutionally suspect interactions with Huff and Seaton along Interstate 70, just across the border from St. Louis.
Louis Meyer, the attorney representing Huff and Seaton, told HuffPost via email that his investigation has turned up more complaints against Reichert.
“We have discovered that Officer Reichert has a pattern and practice of fabricating probable cause to try and justify illegal traffic stops,” Meyer wrote. “After making these illegal traffic stops, Officer Reichert conducts illegal searches of the individuals and their vehicles. Once again, he fabricates probable cause by falsely claiming that his K9 ‘alerted’ to the presence of drugs in the vehicle.”
Meyer added that “others have come forward and are willing to testify regarding their encounters with this officer and how it affected them.”
Collinsville city officials did not return a request for comment.
As HuffPost reported in March, the traffic stop raised a number of questions about law enforcement, the drug war and the Fourth Amendment. It occurred along a stretch of highway know to be a lucrative source of asset forfeiture revenue for state and local police departments. Defense attorneys told HuffPost that stops like the one depicted in Huff’s video are common, and that police are known to manufacture traffic infractions to allow for such stops and then manufacture probable cause to conduct drug searches.
If police can establish even a slight connection to drug activity, officers can then seize drivers’ cars and cash, with proceeds going back to the police department. Under Illinois law, it can be very difficult and expensive for an innocent person to have their property returned, particularly for motorists who are from out of state, like Huff.