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Excessive forfeiture use is reflected in police agency amenities

It is all too easy - especially in the field of crime legislation - to let particular cases dictate policy. Legislators often become so concerned with reacting to a particular case that they lose sight of the forest for the trees.

But particular cases are not merely anecdotes. They are occurrences that affect real people and often point to a larger problem. That is why, in this blog about forfeiture law, we consistently point to specific cases, such as in our October 8 post about the heavy-handed asset seizure by federal agents of the bank account of a family-run grocery store.

In this post, then, let's look at more anecdotal evidence that foreclosure proceedings are often misused by law enforcement agencies.

One of the problems with asset seizures by these agencies is that there are so few checks and balances about what they can do with the money or other assets that they seize. Sometimes the things they purchase are, to say the least, of dubious merit.

The Nation magazine recently reported on some of these eyebrow-raising purchases. In Pittsburgh, for example, police spent nearly $10,000 to buy Gatorade with cash acquired through forfeiture.

Other police agencies have also spent considerable sums for amenities with questionable connections to law enforcement. In Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, for instance, the sheriff's office plunked down $8,200 in funds from civil forfeitures to buy flat-screen TVs. The sheriff's office also spent $14,500 in forfeiture funds to buy two Segways.

Obviously these are anecdotes, which can easily be cherry-picked for effect. But there are enough of these cases to raise troubling questions about out-of-control forfeiture actions by law enforcement agencies across the nation.

Source: The Nation, "When Did 'To Serve & Protect' Become 'To Seize & Profit?'" Jesse Lava and Sarah Solon, Oct. 29, 2013

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