Sign the petition to stop policing for profit!
The cops in Bal Harbour, Fla., have been partying with your stuff. The police department there spent $21,000 on an “anti-drug beach bash.” And that’s not the only outrageous thing law enforcement agencies have bought with the assets they have seized. They’ve also spent funds on a “party house,” Hawaiian vacations, “Disney training,” first-class airfare, Cadillac rentals, tanning beds, banquets, and a Dodge Viper. How is this even possible?
Civil forfeiture allows the police to seize and keep property suspected of involvement in criminal activity. With civil forfeiture, you don’t have to be found guilty of a crime—or even charged—to permanently lose your cash, car, home or other property. Even worse, law enforcement often reaps the proceeds from civil forfeitures, creating a direct financial incentive to “police for profit.”
Abuse is rampant. Russ Caswell, who owns and runs his family’s motel in Massachusetts, and Terry Dehko, who owns a grocery store in Michigan, were both victims. Neither of them did anything wrong and they almost lost their motel and store. They are not alone – as Sarah Stillman observed in the New Yorker, this is happening across America.
Under federal law, law enforcement keeps all of the proceeds from civil forfeitures—plus, a federal program called “equitable sharing” allows states with strong protections for property owners to circumvent their local restrictions in favor of more lucrative federal law. This federal program is the problem that needs to be addressed most urgently.
Now is the time to stop “policing for profit” and reform federal civil forfeiture.
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Check out the laws in your state
To learn more about civil forfeiture please see:
“Taken,” New Yorker
“The grabbing hand of the law,” The Economist
“Court Rejects Justice Department Seizure of Motel,” The Wall Street Journal
“When Did ‘To Serve & Protect’ Become ‘To Seize & Profit?’,” The Nation