November 10, 2015

LEGALIZED PIRACY: New report: In tough times, police start seizing a lot more stuff from people.

Recent years have brought public scrutiny on a controversial law enforcement practice known as civil asset forfeiture, which lets police seize and keep cash and property from people who are never convicted — and in many cases, even charged — with wrongdoing. But despite a growing public outcry spurred in part by news investigations and congressional hearings, a new report Tuesday from the Institute for Justice, a non-profit civil liberties law firm, finds that the past decade has seen a “meteoric, exponential increase” in the use of the practice. . . .

One possible explanation for the recent rise is that “the years 2008 to 2014 were some lean economic years,” said report co-author Dick Carpenter in an interview. “Forfeiture is an attractive way to keep revenue streams flowing when budgets are tight.”

Law enforcement officers generally acknowledged this factor, according a Washington Post investigation last year: “All of our home towns are sitting on a tax-liberating gold mine,” Deputy Ron Hain of Kane County, Ill., wrote in a self-published book in 2011.

Critics of the system also say that the increase in forfeiture activity is due largely to the profit motive created by laws which allow police to keep some or all of the assets they seize.

Yep. It’s corrupting to let the police keep the stuff they seize.

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