Monday 28 March 2011

Asset forfeiture

Radley Balko points to asset forfeiture as cause of much of the rise in police corruption in the US.
Not only was the seizure of Simpson's property perfectly legal under Michigan's asset forfeiture laws; this sort of confiscation is encouraged. In 2009 The Detroit News reported that forfeitures in some Michigan jurisdictions had jumped 100 percent or more in recent years, as police departments used the procedure to supplement budgets strained by the bad economy and government debt. Police need not charge someone with a crime to take his property, and it can cost thousands of dollars to get it back. One former prosecutor told The Detroit News: "Forfeiture laws are being abused by police and prosecutors who see only dollar signs. It's a money grab, pure and simple—a sneaky way of getting a penalty on something prosecutors can't prove. It's like shooting fish in a barrel." It is not terribly surprising, then, to read that the same Lt. Luke Davis who oversaw the raid on Rudy Simpson's home was later arrested because, as the local news station WXYZ reported, "he and...others sold off drugs and confiscated goods for their own profit."
Read the whole post for some of the recent outrages.

Radley's soon off to blog for Huffington; excellent that he'll be reaching a broader audience.

Meanwhile, Christchurch demolition contractors seem to have been doing a bit of their own asset forfeiture from the properties they're demolishing at Civil Defence's behest. Demolition guys salvaging from properties they're wrecking is great where it's by contract with the property owner. But where the owner hasn't even been informed that the property is going under the wrecking ball, it's an awful lot more like looting. And preventing looting is one of the reasons Civil Defense has given for banning property owners from entering the cordon - too hard to maintain security if they let property owners in.

Stephen Franks worries that insurers might well be off the hook for businesses destroyed by Civil Defense where the buildings were otherwise salvageable.

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