Tag Archives: Police

Feds using forfeiture to their advantage

[Co-authored with Trevor Burrus)

The Justice Department recently announced that it is resuming the “equitable sharing” part of its civil asset forfeiture program, thus ending one of the major criminal justice reform victories of the Obama administration.

Civil asset forfeiture is a legal tool by which police officers can seize and sell private property without a convicting the owner of any crime, and equitable sharing is a process by which state and local police can circumvent state restrictions on civil asset forfeiture and take property under the color of federal law.

It may sound like a scene from a dystopian novel, but under civil asset forfeiture, a police officer can pull you over, claim he smells marijuana, and then take all the cash you have — and maybe even your car, too. Getting your property back requires going through lengthy court procedures to prove that the property is “innocent.”

Back in December, after Congress enacted reductions to the Justice Department’s civil asset forfeiture fund by $1.2 billion, the Justice Department announced that the program was being deferred until further notice.

Read the rest on The Detroit News, here.

Make body cameras mandatory to improve police accountability

An objective video recording of police activity and incidents – through body cameras – can ensure accountability and an honest way to evaluate problems as they arise, protecting the public and police alike. As the public and government officials grapple with the Laquan McDonald shooting and the alleged mishandling of the case by Chicago city officials, many are asking what reforms can help prevent something similar from happening again. Increased transparency, changes to police union rules and other structural reforms are certainly needed. So is the use of body cameras.

If there was any doubt before, most of the country now recognizes just how critical video recordings can be. A recent poll from the Cato Institute shows that 92 percent of Americans now support the adoption of body cameras – including majorities across the political spectrum.

Read the rest on Reboot Illinois here.

Pennsylvania’s civil asset forfeiture laws among worst in America

The Institute for Justice recently released the second edition of its Policing for Profit report on the abuse of civil asset forfeiture. According to the report, the Keystone State “has some of the worst civil forfeiture laws in the country.” The Institute for Justice gave Pennsylvania a D-, with only Massachusetts and North Dakota scoring worse.

The city of Philadelphia was especially bad, garnering special notice in the main body of the report for what is described as a “forfeiture machine” that serves as a cash cow for the city police, and district attorney’s office. As the report notes “between 2002 and 2013, forfeiture revenues were equivalent to nearly one-fifth of the Philadelphia district attorney’s budget.”

This low grade is tied to three main factors: the “low bar to forfeit,” with “no conviction required”;  “the poor protections for innocent third-party property owners”; and the bad incentives created by the fact that “100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement.”

Read the rest on Watchdog here.