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Trump’s AG wants to reinstate forfeiture abuses

Forfeiture laws were enacted with good intentions — to deprive criminals of their crime profits — but create enormous temptations for unethical cops to take cash, vehicles, and even houses from innocent citizens. Property seizures have proliferated, and are used to fund police salaries, squad cars and other equipment, even coffee machines, and also sometimes expensive junkets and vacations for police brass and their friends.

“That’s a real nice car! I’ll bet you have drugs on you.”

For cops, it’s easy money because they don’t need to convict — or even charge — the owner of the targeted property with a crime. They can simply pull over highway travelers, arrest them for drug possession, and confiscate their vehicles and money. It doesn’t require actually finding drugs. The victim’s signature on a form is enough. They get it by applying intimidation, threats, and coercion. A common tactic is making victims sign over their property to get out of jail. Some police departments have even been known to threaten to take children away from parents unless they surrender their vehicles and cash.

In some states, legislators deluged with citizen complaints have moved to crack down on unsavory police practices. Two key reforms are conditioning forfeitures on obtaining a criminal conviction, and requiring local police departments to turn over all forfeitures to the state, which eliminates their financial incentive to exploit these laws.

In addition, the Obama administration imposed restrictions use of federal forfeiture laws by local police. But Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is now seeking to reverse these restrictions. These not only will allow corrupt local police departments to profit by abusing federal forfeiture, but will also enable them to go around the reforms being imposed on them by their own state legislatures.

Read the story here.

Just one more float in the parade of horrors the Trump presidency is turning out to be.


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