Articles Tagged with policing for profit

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On paper, Missouri’s civil asset forfeiture laws are better than most. State law requires all proceeds from property and cash seizures be used to fund public schools in the state. However, law enforcement is using a loophole to keep the vast majority of the proceeds for themselves.

Since 2015, Missouri law enforcement seized property and cash valued at $19 million. Of that total, less than 2 percent—only $340,000—found its way to schools.
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Civil asset forfeiture has become a central issue in the Republican races for attorney general and governor in Alabama. While incumbent Attorney General Steve Marshall has expressed support for the process and Governor Kay Ivey has shown little enthusiasm for reform, their opponents in the primary agree reform is needed.

The Alabama legislature recently attempted to reform civil asset forfeiture in the state. The first draft of the legislation would have required a criminal conviction before property could be seized. Law enforcement opposed this approach. In response, a revised bill was proposed, one which was more limited in scope but would have given more oversight to the process. However, even this limited bill failed.
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The Department of Justice has suspended the federal civil asset forfeiture program in Palmview, Texas while it investigates potential misappropriation of funds.

Palmview, a town of 5,500 people, received about $47,000 in funds in 2017 from the DOJ’s Equitable Sharing Program. This is a tiny amount compared to fund received by larger cities in the state. Last year, law enforcement agencies across Texas received $29 million from the program. These funds, however, are at the core of the city’s corruption investigation.
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This spring, lawmakers in Alabama looked set to reform civil asset forfeiture. However, even though politicians and interest groups across the political spectrum supported reform, the reforms failed.

The libertarian Institute for Justice rates Alabama’s current civil asset forfeiture laws as “among the worst in the nation.” Civil asset forfeiture is the process where law enforcement can seize an individual’s property if it is suspected of being involved in a crime. In most states, a criminal conviction is not required before property is seized. In Alabama, profits from civil asset forfeiture are used to fund law enforcement. This has led to accusations of abuse and “policing for profit.”
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The New York Police Department (NYPD) has released about 160,000 documents which detail the property and money seized from citizens, primarily during arrests, between 2017 and 2017. This is the result of a two-year lawsuit which alleged officials were withholding records documenting tens of millions of dollars in seized property.

In July 2014, the Bronx Defenders, a public defender office based in the South Bronx, filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for these documents to be released. They argued that the NYPD was holding onto citizens’ property even after their cases were completed.
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