I don't think for forfeiture victims wonder whether libertarians have been right all along about this practice. You know when you've been looted. You don't wonder.If there is a post-Ferguson marriage of principles between progressives and libertarians, it is breaking out in Philadelphia. The Institute for Justice’s stated goal is the end of civil forfeiture. As thousands of Philadelphians work through the system every year, they must wonder whether the libertarians have it right.
The Institute for Justice filed its lawsuit after months of observing the courtroom, four years after it published a report on how civil forfeiture meant “property is guilty until you prove it innocent,” two years after Philadelphia City Paper reporter Isaiah Thompson published a lengthy investigation of the process, and one year after a blockbuster New Yorker piece about forfeitures around the country. The basic argument, in the articles and in the lawsuit, was that Philadelphia’s use of forfeiture was wildly out of whack. Thompson’s reporting found that the city brought in “upwards of $6-million a year” from forfeitures, or about five times as much as Brooklyn. Those numbers, and Thompson’s subsequent reporting, are cited in the Institute for Justice’s filing.
In many states, the law permits police departments to auction off the seized assets and keep the cash. Critics say this system incentivizes "policing for profit" at the expense of innocent members of the community, while proponents argue that it motivates police officers to do their jobs better and funds police departments by "taxing criminals."
Wilson, a professor of economics at Chapman University, and his co-author Michael Preciado designed a study to reveal how the incentives set forth under civil forfeiture affect human behavior. In the study, one undergraduate student plays the role of law enforcement in a computer game, and three others play the roles of the public. Subjects played for real money, and Wilson says the results were overwhelming.
"It's not a few people just abusing it. This is the modal tendency: to abuse," says Wilson, who points out that subjects are more likely than not to help others in games when there's no financial cost of doing so. "For me, that's pretty strong evidence that it's the rules that are creating the incentives for them to police for profit."
Financial incentives to enforcement....Cash is suspicious. So take it!
Fixed.Financial incentives toCash is suspicious. So take it!
Better indeed.Fixed.Financial incentives toCash is suspicious. So take it!
I can't find one. You really have to see it. It is spot on.Is there a transcript for readers?
$2.5 billion from the Equitable Sharing Program, $2 billion of it seized from people who were never convicted of any crime....Police agencies have used hundreds of millions of dollars taken from Americans under federal civil forfeiture law in recent years to buy guns, armored cars and electronic surveillance gear. They have also spent money on luxury vehicles, travel and a clown named Sparkles.
The details are contained in thousands of annual reports submitted by local and state agencies to the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing Program, an initiative that allows local and state police to keep up to 80 percent of the assets they seize. The Washington Post obtained 43,000 of the reports dating from 2008 through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Of the nearly $2.5 billion in spending reported in the forms, 81 percent came from cash and property seizures in which no indictment was filed, according to an analysis by The Post. Owners must prove that their money or property was acquired legally in order to get it back.
A local or state police agency can seize cash or property under federal law through the Equitable Sharing Program when a federal agency such as the Drug Enforcement Administration or Immigration and Customs Enforcement agrees to adopt the seizure under federal law. Federal agencies generally are allowed to keep 20 percent or more of the seizure after an adoption.
In September, The Post reported that police across the country became more aggressive in their use of federal civil asset forfeiture laws after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Officials at Justice and the Department of Homeland Security encouraged a technique known as highway interdiction to help in the fight against drugs and terror.
There have been 61,998 cash seizures on highways and elsewhere since 9/11 without search warrants or indictments and processed through the Equitable Sharing Program, according to an analysis of Justice data obtained by The Post.
Equitable Sharing participants must follow rules contained in a 50-page Equitable Sharing guide that require the proceeds of seizures to be used “by law enforcement agencies for law enforcement purposes only.”
Permissible uses include overtime pay, training, building construction and improvements and equipment — everything from file cabinets and fitness gear to automatic weapons, surveillance systems and cars. They also can use proceeds to buy food and drinks at conferences or during disaster operations.
The Justice Department has about 15 employees assigned to overseeing compliance.
One audit examined about $3.4 million in Equitable Sharing funds that the Oklahoma Highway Patrol spent from July 2009 to June 2012.
The audit found $1.9 million in unallowable and unsupported expenditures relating to salaries, overtime pay, construction, fees paid to contractors and the use of two Ford F-150 pickup trucks by non-law enforcement personnel.
Oklahoma authorities did not return calls seeking comment.
Auditors found the Mesa County, Colo., Sheriff’s Office paid thousands for projectors, scanner equipment and other items that were not intended for law enforcement. They also paid for 20 lawyers in the Mesa County prosecutor’s office to attend a conference at the Keystone ski resort. Auditors questioned more than $78,000 in spending.
The Mesa Sheriff’s Office also did not respond to calls from The Post.
The practice of civil forfeiture has come under fire in recent months, amid a spate of negative press
I'm glad that the Johnny-Come-Lately NY Times has finally joined the fight against civil asset forfeiture abuse.
This article shows once again that this enforcement tool leads to targeting of assets, not criminals.
If he really believes that the abuses of innocent people should stop, he should join libertarians and the various Johnny-Come-Lately's in calling for CIVIL asset forfeiture reform. As for those "other cases" people never hear about, we have CRIMINAL asset forfeiture laws that he is free to use.In defense of the practice, Gary Bergman, a prosecutor with the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, said civil forfeiture had been distorted in news reports. “All they hear is the woman was left on the side of the road and the police drove off with her car and her money, no connection to drugs,” he told other prosecutors at the session.
“I’m not saying that that doesn’t happen — it does. It should not. But they never hear about all the people that get stopped with the drugs in their cars, in their houses, the manufacturing operations we see, all the useful things we do with the money, the equipment, vehicles. They don’t hear about that.”