The City of Valley Brook is once again accused of illegal policing. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law claimed in a lawsuit filed in Oklahoma County last week the city has been maintaining a modern-day debtors’ prison.
The one-mile city of Valley Brook, mostly know for strip clubs, is now getting another reputation.
“We see the police department stopping people for minor traffic offenses,” said Tianna Mays, lawsuit attorney. “And then using that as an opportunity to search these people’s car without any type of warrant.”
Mays is part of a national group of attorneys investigating debtors' prisons in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Mays said Valley Brooks’ budget was mostly generated through traffic ticket fines and fees for minor offenses. The lawsuit alleged that Valley Brook police and city officials threatened motorists to pay hundreds to thousands of dollars in fines or they would go to the Oklahoma County Detention Center.
“As a result,” said Mays. “You have people being incarcerated merely because they cannot afford to pay and that is the definition of debtors’ prison.”
Mays said it was the municipal judge's job to ask citizens if they can even afford to pay the fine or set up a reasonable payment.
On top of that. the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law was investigating how the city calculates its traffic fines.
“Our goal here is systemic change,” said Mays. “Our goal is to make sure people aren’t criminalizing poverty.”
News 9 did call the Valley Brook mayor and chief of police for comment but they did not return the calls.