Articles Tagged with policing for profit

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sunset-49383_1920-300x225For more than three months, police departments in Mississippi have seized property from individuals with no legal authority after a forfeiture law quietly lapsed. Law enforcement agencies say they did not notice the lapse.

The law in question had allowed police agencies to seize cash or property suspected of being involved with illicit drugs unless the owner challenged it in court within 30 days of the seizure. This procedure is called “administrative forfeiture” and was used for seizures which totaled less than $20,000. For larger sums, “judicial forfeiture” was used. Judicial forfeiture requires law enforcement agencies to sue in court in order to have a judge sanction the forfeiture. The burden of proof for judicial forfeitures is also higher than for administrative forfeitures.
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adventure-asphalt-california-533671-300x200In December 2017, Zeke Flatten was pulled over while driving on Highway 101 in California. He was traveling south through Humboldt County and was stopped a little way north of the Mendocino County line. Zeke was not speeding, nor breaking any other traffic laws

At first, the officers did not identify which law enforcement department they worked for. They did not wear departmental badges, nor did they have name tags. They had pulled him over in an unmarked, black Police Interceptor.

As Zeke later said, “At this point, I really felt something was wrong.” Zeke, a resident of Texas, was traveling in a rental car. He showed the officers the car rental agreement and his driver’s license.
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agreement-business-businessmen-886465-300x200In 2014, Philadelphia police seized the home of Chris and Markela Sourovelis after their son was arrested for selling drugs worth $40 outside on their property. The police used a process known as civil asset forfeiture to take the property. This is a legal procedure where law enforcement can take someone’s property or cash if it is suspected of being involved in a crime. They can do so without a criminal conviction or even filing criminal charges.

According to the Institute for Justice (IJ), the use of civil asset forfeiture in Philadelphia has gone “unchecked” for years. Until recently, all funds from civil asset forfeiture seizures went directly Philadelphia’s law enforcement.
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On July 2, 2015, police officers pulled Stephen Nichols over in Lincoln Park near Detroit, Michigan. When they discovered Stephen didn’t have valid insurance for his 1998 Toyota Avalon, they seized it and impounded it in a lot in nearby Brownstown Township.

In cases where property is seized, the law is clear: cases must be brought to court promptly. However, it is over three years since his car was taken, and Stephen still hasn’t had his day in court.
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A possible financial scandal is emerging in Michigan, where state officials have been asked to investigate the use of civil asset forfeiture funds in Macomb County. On Monday, Macomb County Treasurer Lawrence Rocca wrote to state officials, saying the review was necessary because of discoveries made during a recent audit of the finances of Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office.

The audit, which was conducted by Plante Moran LLC, showed the county prosecutor was using four secret bank accounts with a combined total of $239,581 in assets as of Aug 21. These accounts were not listed on the county’s ledger. The funds in these accounts came from the proceeds of civil asset forfeiture.
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