The public, as well as some of the legislature, seems to be trying to grasp the latest asset forfeiture plan that the Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) has put in place. At the center of the controversy is several portable debit card readers that have been acquired by the OHP. The OHP plans to use the card readers to see how much money you have on your debit card and take it from you — without a judge’s order, trial, or any other due process — if you seem like you are a suspicious person.
So, how can you tell a suspicious person? By looking at them, I guess. Granted, there are other “official” ways of profiling a person to decide whether they are suspicious, but they all come down to what the OHP officer decides is suspicious. If that simple fact alone doesn’t scare you, then you have indeed lived a charmed life.
So what does the OHP have to say about this? News 9 reports:
“The thing is we’re not stopping somebody and grabbing a 25-dollar Walgreens card and running it,” said Lt. John Vincent Oklahoma Highway Patrol. “There’s a reason for us to check what’s on the card.”
Troopers say often drug couriers will use the prepaid cards instead of carrying cash.
“That’s when we’re going to be able to use the ERAD [Electronic Recovery and Access Devices aka debit card reader QH] system to check those cards to see what is on them. And if you can prove that you have a reason to have those cards there won’t be any charges,” said Vincent.
Mr. Vincent seems to be trying to conflate the Walgreens card that you might be carrying with the debit card that you get paid with. The Walgreens card belongs to a type of card called a closed-loop card that can only be used at the store (or stores) where the card was purchased. In other words, it is what is commonly referred to as a gift card.
The ERAD debit card reader works with open-loop cards. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau defines open-loop cards as follows:
What is an open-loop prepaid card?
An open-loop prepaid card is a card with a network logo on it (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover) that can be used at any location that accepts that brand.
That’s right. Any “credit card” that you have in your wallet that has a network (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover) logo on it can be read, and have all if the money on it confiscated by the OHP for no other reason that they don’t like the way that you look.
The OHP claims that the ERAD debit card readers won’t work on any card that isn’t prepaid. Even if we take them at their word on that point, that still leaves a population vulnerable to any prejudices that might have slipped through the Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s training academy as well as any of the other biases that exist in the general population.
Considering that most of the people I know can’t tell the difference between a Muslim and a Sikh, that doesn’t fill me with confidence.