WKRP’s Johnny Fever once worried that the “phone cops” were coming to get him. If there is not more to this story than meets the eye, Johnny Fever’s nightmares may not be that off base. Meet the student loan police:
STOCKTON, CA — Kenneth Wright does not have a criminal record and he had no reason to believe a S.W.A.T team would be breaking down his door at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.
“I look out of my window and I see 15 police officers,” Wright said.
Wright came downstairs in his boxer shorts as the officers team barged through his front door. Wright said an officer grabbed him by the neck and led him outside on his front lawn.
“He had his knee on my back and I had no idea why they were there,” Wright said.
According to Wright, officers also woke his three young children ages 3, 7, and 11, and put them in a Stockton police patrol car with him. Officers then searched his house.
As it turned out, the person law enforcement was looking for was not there – Wright’s estranged wife.
“They put me in handcuffs in that hot patrol car for six hours, traumatizing my kids,” Wright said.
Wright said he later went to the mayor and Stockton Police Department, but the city of Stockton had nothing to do with Wright’s search warrant.
The U.S. Department of Education issued the search and called in S.W.A.T for his wife’s defaulted student loans.
“They busted down my door for this,” Wright said. “It wasn’t even me.”
According to the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General, the case can’t be discussed publicly until it is closed, but a representative confirmed the department did issue the search warrant at Wright’s home.
Wednesday morning, inspector general spokeswoman Gina Burress provided the following statement:
“The Office of Inspector General does not engage in the collection of student loans. Our mission is to conduct criminal investigations related to the programs and operations of the U.S. Department of Education, which include the student financial aid programs. We can confirm that we executed a search warrant at the residence, however our policy is not to discuss details of our on-going work.”
The Office of the Inspector General has a law enforcement branch of federal agents that carry out search warrants and investigations.
The Stockton Police Department said it was asked by federal agents to provide one officer and one patrol car just for a police presence when carrying out the search warrant.
Police officers did not participate in breaking Wright’s door, handcuffing him, or searching his home.
“All I want is an apology for me and my kids and for them to get me a new door,” Wright said.
Now, I do not doubt for a minute that the federal government, having made the highly questionable decision to become the principal lender to college-bound students, has an interest in pursuing loan defaulters to repay their loans. But using police resources? I suspect the Department of Justice, acting through a U.S. attorney, was responsible for obtaining this warrant, so you likely have two Cabinet departments and a federal judge involved in authorizing a search (and probably arrest) warrant for a loan defaulter. I’d like to think there is something more to this story, but sadly, have no reason to think so.