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Give the money back!

Posted on: March 16, 2011 1:47 pm
 



Money raised by Metro Detroit agencies increases 50% in five years

George Hunter and Doug Guthrie / The Detroit News


Local law enforcement agencies are raising millions of dollars by seizing private property suspected in crimes, but often without charges being filed -- and sometimes even when authorities admit no offense was committed.

The money raised by confiscating goods in Metro Detroit soared more than 50 percent to at least $20.62 million from 2003 to 2007, according to a Detroit News analysis of records from 58 law enforcement agencies. In some communities, amounts raised went from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands -- and, in one case, into the millions.                                                                                                     


  "It's like legalized stealing," said Jacque Sutton, a 21-year-old college student from Mount Clemens whose 1989 Mustang was seized by Detroit police raiding a party. Charges against him and more than 100 others were dropped, but he still paid more than $1,000 to get the car back.

"According to the law, I did nothing wrong -- but they're allowed to take my property anyway. It doesn't make sense."

While courts have maintained the government's right to take property involved in crimes, police seizures -- also known as forfeitures -- are a growing source of friction in Michigan, especially as law enforcement agencies struggle to balance budgets.

"Police departments right now are looking for ways to generate revenue, and forfeiture is a way to offset the costs of doing business," said Sgt. Dave Schreiner, who runs Canton Township's forfeiture unit, which raised $343,699 in 2008. "You'll find that departments are doing more forfeitures than they used to because they've got to -- they're running out of money and they've got to find it somewhere."

The increase in property seizures merely is a byproduct of diligent law enforcement, some law enforcement officials say.

"We're trying to fight crime," said Police Chief Mike Pachla of Roseville, where the money raised from forfeitures jumped more than tenfold, from $33,890 to $393,014.

"We would be just as aggressive even if there wasn't any money involved."

Roseville had among the most dramatic increases over the five-year period examined by The News. But several other agencies also more than doubled their takes, including Novi, Trenton, Farmington Hills, Southfield, the Michigan State Police, Shelby Township, Livonia, Warren and Romulus.

The increase in money coming in leads to a higher percentage of the police budget being covered by seizures. In Roseville, the share of the police budget raised from forfeitures went from 0.3 percent to 4.2 percent. In Romulus, it jumped from 4.5 percent to 11.2 percent from 2003-2007, the most recent years for which comparable records were available. Some agencies said records weren't available.

Police and prosecutors profit because citizens must either pay to get their confiscated property back or lose their cars, homes and other seized assets to the arresting agencies, which auction them off.

The increased reliance on seized property to fund police operations amounts to a trade-off for law enforcement. The tough economy may be prompting law enforcement agencies to use an "entrepreneurial spirit," but that makes for bad public relations, said Tom Hendrickson, director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.



From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20091112
/METRO/911120388/Police-property-se
izures-ensnare-even-the-innocent#ix
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So does the MSP Union fight for justice for these people that were robbed by them?
Comments

Since: Sep 30, 2007
Posted on: March 19, 2011 3:35 pm
 

Give the money back!

I guess that's why you got 2 eyes.........one to keep on the bads guys and one to keep on the good guys!



Since: Jun 8, 2010
Posted on: March 16, 2011 3:03 pm
 

"Give the money back!" Oh wait... Here's more...

MARGARET DAVIS, a 77-year old woman in Philadelphia, left her door unlocked so that her neighbours could pop in from time to time to check up on her. One day, some drug-dealers fleeing from the police ran through her house and apparently dropped some of their stash as they were fleeing. The police found these drugs, and figured that this was a good enough reason to file a motion to seize Ms Davis's home. It took her two years and the help of some charitable lawyers to beat them off. 

Chris Hunt was driving through Georgia one day to visit his mother. Some police officers stopped him. They thought they could smell marijuana, so they searched his car. They found $6,581 in cash. They confiscated it. Mr Hunt insists that the money was the weekend's profits from his car-detailing shop. He was never charged with a crime, but the cops kept the cash. When Mr Hunt sued, he only got half of it back.

These stories are from a  by the Institute for Justice. Under state and federal laws, the police have wide latitude to seize property if they suspect it is connected with a crime. The owner need not necessarily be charged with a crime to lose his property.

Such seizures are difficult to challenge:

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[F]ew property owners, especially low-income individuals, can meet the burdens of civil forfeiture proceedings, [so they] often do not challenge seizures of their property. This is especially true when government seizes property the value of which would be greatly exceeded by the time, attorney fees and other expenses necessary to fight the forfeiture. As a result, many property owners do not and cannot challenge forfeitures, and the government obtains the property by default.

Seized assets can be used to beef up police budgets, so the police have a glaring conflict of interest when deciding whether or not to grab your stuff:

<blockquote style="margin-top: 10px; margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 13px; margin-left: 10px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 13px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 13px; font-size: 1.2em; vertical-align: baseline; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: transparent; quotes: none; line-height: 20px; font-style: italic; background-position: initial initial; background-repeat: initial initial; border: 0px initial initial;">Incredibly, given the ability of law enforcement through civil forfeiture to raise off-budget funds, often without limitation, many states do not even require law enforcement agencies to report how much money has been raised and on what items the money has been spent.

Radley Balko calls it a "".           



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