Jeff Sessions Brings Back Federal For-Profit Police with Return to No-Charge Civil Asset Forfeiture
by D.J. McGuire
Amidst the whirl and rush over Donald Trump’s latest temper tantrum to The New York Times, I want to be sure the latest action by Attorney General Jeff Sessions (ironically, one of Trump’s targets) did not go unnoticed – because it’s not good (from the Washington Post).
The Justice Department announced a new federal policy Wednesday to help state and local police take cash and property from people suspected of a crime, even without a criminal charge, reversing an Obama administration rule prompted by past abuse by police.
. . .
Two years ago, then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. barred state and local police from using federal law to seize cash and other property without criminal charges or warrants. Since 2008, thousands of police agencies had made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a Justice Department civil asset forfeiture program, which allowed local and state police to make seizures and then share the proceeds with federal agencies.
A Washington Post investigation in 2014 found that state and local police had seized almost $2.5 billion from motorists and others without search warrants or indictments since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Post series revealed that police routinely stopped drivers for minor traffic infractions, pressed them to agree to searches without warrants and seized large amounts of cash when there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
Police then spent the proceeds from the seizure with little oversight, according to the Post investigation. In some cases, the police bought luxury cars, high-powered weapons and armored cars.
In other words, the profit motive got a big boost in the one place it shouldn’t have: law enforcement.
There was a time, before Trump dragged the Republican Party back to 1979, when limiting civil asset forfeiture was a bipartisan reform issue. At the federal level, at least, those days are gone.
As it happens, though, two states have elections for Governor this year (including my home state of Virginia). The legislature in Richmond made some progress in this area last year (WAVY), but there is still a ways to go. I’d very much like to see the candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Delegate way in on this matter.
D.J. McGuire is the conservative Democrat on More Perfect Union podcast – and sometimes feels like he is the lone conservative Democrat in the country.