The Morning News When the Police Can Take Your Cash, Cars, and Home
Members of a visit, board, search and seizure team, assigned to the guided-missile frigate USS Vandegrift. Credit: Commander, US 7th Fleet..

The Chicago Police Department has a massive, eight-digit, off-the-books bank account dedicated to the proceeds from stuff that it seizes from people, like cars from disabled elderly black women whose kids get caught with drugs.

Cash on Wheels

The five municipal governments that rely most on civil asset forfeiture, and the fines that come with it, are towns of under 1,500 people—suggesting that the city has turned pulling over drivers into a thriving part of the local economy.

Sep 27, 2016

Naturally, it was only after John Oliver did a segment on civil asset forfeiture, based on a Washington Post investigation, that the federal government took any steps to reform the system. Eric Holder banned the practice of police using federal laws to seize assets, but police are still free to use state laws.

A guy drives up in a 2008 Mercedes, brand new. Just so beautiful, I mean, the cops were undercover and they were just like “Ahhhh.” And he gets out and he’s just reeking of alcohol. And it’s like, “Oh, my goodness, we can hardly wait.”

City attorney of a small city in New Mexico describes "little goodies" of civil asset forfeiture.
↩︎ The New York Times
Sep 27, 2016

During the recession, federal and local law enforcement agencies, from small-town cops to the Justice and Treasury Departments, exponentially increased their use of civil asset forfeitures, according to a 2015 study.

"The combination of low procedural hurdles, high profit incentive, and meager accountability or oversight created a rich environment for forfeiture activities to flourish," said co-author Dick Carpenter. 

The study graded each state's forfeiture laws through a civil liberties lens; the average was a D. (The federal government earned a D-.)

Forty-odd officers in black commando gear stormed the gallery and its rear patio, ordering the guests to the ground. Some in attendance thought that they were the victims of an armed robbery. One young woman who had fallen only to her knees told me that a masked figure screamed at her, “Bitch, you think you’re too pretty to get in the mud?” 

Sarah Stillman's 2013 exposé of civil asset forfeiture contains many vivid depictions of its misuse; this example is, if not the worst, perhaps the boldest.
↩︎ The New Yorker
Sep 27, 2016
More Headlines