2014 saw a new record in that the federal government managed to acquire more property and funds through civil forfeiture than burglars were through simple criminality, but it is far from the first time that federal law enforcement agencies have resorted to such blatantly self-serving practices in order to enrich themselves, and worryingly, it’s not just federal agencies that do it. As The Daily Signal reports:
“Civil forfeiture is a tool that gives federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies the power to seize property—including cash, cars, and houses—if they suspect it’s connected to criminal activity. In recent years, the practice has come under scrutiny, as law enforcement has been found using civil forfeiture to pad budgets—without the oversight of city councils or state legislatures—and seizing property without charging victims with crimes.
In many states, law enforcement agencies can keep 100 percent of the proceeds from the property they forfeit, and their ability to do so creates what many opponents of forfeiture say is a perverse profit incentive for law enforcement to seize property under civil forfeiture.
‘There are a number of reasons this is troubling—not only because sizable portions of agency budgets are now derived from the forcible seizure of property, but because details of how these funds are spent escape public scrutiny,’ Snead said. ‘Agencies can use forfeiture to self-finance, and that seriously undermines accountability, transparency, and trust in law enforcement officers.’
In a statement to The Daily Signal, a spokesman with the Justice Department defended the government’s use of civil forfeiture.
‘Appropriate use of asset forfeiture law allows the Justice Department to safeguard the integrity, security, and stability of our nation’s financial system and provides unique means to go after criminal and terrorist organizations, while protecting the civil liberties of all Americans,’ the spokesman said. ‘As we continue our comprehensive review of the asset forfeiture program, we will stay focused on deterring criminal activity, returning the proceeds of crime to victims, and defending the rights of our citizens.'”
How about they start by respecting our property!
Photo: Steven Depolo on Flickr