DOJ's Equitable Sharing Program Takes $1.2 Billion Hit, Much To Dismay Of Asset Forfeiture-Abusing Law Enforcement Agencies

from the cash-cow-temporarily-penned dept

Good news (of sorts) on the asset forfeiture front: the same budget bill that delivered us into the hands of CISA also helped “rob” the nation’s highwaymen of $1.2 billion in equitable sharing funds.

Budget cuts can be glorious things: the Department of Justice announces this week that, thanks to cuts in its budget of an initial $746 million in November’s Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, followed up by a wondrous addition $458 million rescission in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 that became law last week, it is temporarily halting its so-called “equitable sharing” program.

The DOJ’s statement notes it will definitely try to keep the equitable sharing program up and running, but doesn’t see how that’s going to be possible in the immediate future.

By deferring equitable sharing payments now, we preserve our ability to resume equitable sharing payments at a later date should the budget picture improve….We explored every conceivable option that would have enabled us to preserve some form of meaningful equitable sharing while continuing to operate the Program and meet our other fiscal obligations. Unfortunately, the combined effect of the two reductions totaling $1.2 billion made that impossible.

This means state and local law enforcement agencies can still use the federal program to dodge local restrictions on asset forfeiture, but they’ll just have to accept the fact that payouts will be delayed for an indefinite period of time.

Equitable sharing is the preferred loophole for agencies who reside in states with restrictive laws or are currently being subjected to forfeiture reform efforts. They’re not taking the news well. The National Sheriff’s Association (the other NSA) was one of the first to bitch about the budget cut.

The National Sheriffs’ Association is shocked and disappointed by the Department of Justice’s decision to suspend the equitable sharing of Asset Forfeiture Program funds to state, local, and tribal law enforcement. This is yet another blow to those who work every day to prevent terrorism and crime in our communities.

By rescinding nearly $1.2 billion from the Program, Congress and the Administration have openly chosen to focus on the financial bottom line over protecting communities. They should be ashamed because this decision will have severe and direct consequences for our communities.

First off, lol “terrorism.”

If there’s anything asset forfeiture has done little to impact, it’s terrorism. Most law enforcement agencies talk a good terrorism game, but use funding, tech and secondhand military gear to target ordinary crooks — the sort of criminals they’ve always been able to pursue without armored vehicles, cell tower spoofers and hundreds of thousands of dollars in forfeiture funds.

Secondly, the last thing I’d want to criticize Congress and the Administration for is “focusing on the bottom line.” That’s what budgets are for and that’s what legislators should be doing. Of course, the budgeting process in our country has become a tragicomic farce, as can easily be seen by the passage of the horrible Cybersecurity Act (the rebranded CISA) under the pretense of sussing out the nation’s future spending. This criticism can basically be rephrased as “Screw the taxpayers. We want ours.”

The NSA also points out that it’s become highly reliant on a single “income stream.”

The Congress and the Administration have once again failed to understand the repercussions of their actions. In this case, joint task forces across the country will do without the critical manpower support of state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies because many, if not most, sheriffs will be unable to sustain the anti-terror and criminal prevention tempo sufficient to meet the ever-increasing demands. Our federal law enforcement partners will now carry that unimaginable burden.

“Anti-terror tempo.” Hilarious.

From there, the association delivers its parade of horribles, none of which seem particularly horrible to anyone but law enforcement officials used to getting what they want, whenever they want it.

The protective capabilities of our nation are being downgraded at every level in never ending attacks on law enforcement. From this rescission to the early release of thousands of federal inmates to the restrictions on surplus military equipment available to state and local law enforcement, the safety and security of our communities is being put at risk.

Let’s see: the “bad” things stem from overcriminalization, militarization of law enforcement agencies and the widespread dissemination of police accountability tools (mainly, cell phones with built-in cameras). And now, the ability to route around local laws to grab a greater share of assets seized without corresponding convictions has been temporarily curtailed.

Let’s hope these federal agencies will hold up under the “unimaginable burden” of shaking down recreational marijuana users for any cash they might be carrying, busting people for thinking about robbing imaginary stash houses containing imaginary drugs, and whiling away the hours at the FBI’s Build-A-Terrorist Workshop.

For the immediate future, law enforcement agencies will have to play by local rules. Fortunately for them, most states still run highly-questionable forfeiture programs, so the temporary loss of federal-level sharing should have minimal impact.

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Comments on “DOJ's Equitable Sharing Program Takes $1.2 Billion Hit, Much To Dismay Of Asset Forfeiture-Abusing Law Enforcement Agencies”

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22 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Corruption!!!

This type of corruption is so in your face it’s blatant waving your hand on the left so they do not see your right hand taking their wallet… no wait I have that totally wrong… this is so blatant they are just telling you to give them your money or else!

Of course, this has actually led to other problems, such as 2 law enforcement agencies literally fighting or racing against each other to pull people over on the road!

When you have 2 agencies being pitted against each other where the majority of their funding is from civil forfeiture, then you can know that it’s now a race between 2 legalized gangs to steal you fucking blind!

Anonymous Coward says:

This is yet another blow to those who work every day to prevent terrorism and crime in our communities.

More like a blow against those who would be judge jury and executioner in one, and impose punishment on those they declare to be criminal, without having to prove their claims that beyond reasonable doubt in a court.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Next?

Do you mean voters getting mad, trying to change things, and Congressmen nudging each other and whispering to each other “Awww, cuuute. They think they’re people!”

Or do you mean the pitchforks and torches? I’m all for the pitchforks and torches. Good thing regular cops don’t have mass surveillance tools, MRAPs, or… Ooohhh. Well, at least I’ll finally get some bigger crowds at my seminar Top Jobs, 2016: Preparing for a Career in the Suicidally Depressed Agoraphobic Drug Addict Industry. (I do it all for the kids, man. For the kids.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Sour grapes...

With this comment “Our federal law enforcement partners will now carry that unimaginable burden.” I read this as “Yea, sorry Feds, we are too busy shining our shoes to help you out.” Even though it was the Feds that started shoveling money their way without them asking. Now they are addicted to the dollars and can’t do without them.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

The Poor Box

The playwright Robert Bolt wrote of Sir Thomas More, in _A Man For _All Seasons_, “that when given a bribe, he dumped it in the nearest and most convenient sewer.” More mundanely it has been customary for hundreds of years for honest men to put dubious objects in the poor-box, or to give them to the Salvation Army.

A sensible rule would be that all proceeds of forfeiture, whether under federal, state, or munipal law, must be forwarded to the Department of Justice, for transmission to the United Nations, for distribution among the UN’s charitable agencies, viz, the World Health Organization, the Food and Agricultural Organization, UNESCO, UNICEF, etc. Failure to do so would of course be considered not only corruption, but also theft from the poorest of the global poor. On that basis, we would be able to say that the National Sheriffs’ Association were a collection of mean little skunks, stealing from the porridge bowl of a starving child in Africa.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Budgeting for forfeiture

Quite so, which is one of the primary reasons they fight so hard to avoid requiring a conviction before robbery at badge-point is allowed. It’s easy to accuse someone and take their stuff, convicting them takes a lot more work, and drastically cuts down on the amount they can steal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Budgeting for forfeiture

As I was about to respond to your comment, I decided that I really needed to be clear in my wording, so I started looking up the precise definitions of some of the terms that I tend to throw around far to casually. What I found:

Forfeiture (a): See ‘Legal System, Tools’
Legal System, Tools: See ‘Criminalization, Excessive’
Criminalization, Excessive: See ‘Exception, Good Faith’
Exception, Good Faith: See ‘Legal System, Self-Violating’
Legal System, Self-Violating: See ‘Forfeiture (b)’
Forfeiture (b): See ‘Over, Bend’
Over, Bend: See ‘Legal System, Tautology’
Legal System, Tautology: See ‘Forfeiture (a)’

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

In other words

The National Sheriffs’ Association is shocked and disappointed by the Department of Justice’s decision to suspend the equitable sharing of Asset Forfeiture Program funds to state, local, and tribal law enforcement. This is yet another blow to those who work every day to prevent terrorism and crime in our communities.

By rescinding nearly $1.2 billion from the Program, Congress and the Administration have openly chosen to focus on the financial bottom line over protecting communities. They should be ashamed because this decision will have severe and direct consequences for our communities.

TL;DR: Waaaah, if we don’t get our piece of the money that we rightfully stole, we won’t be able to stop turrism anymore!

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