from the good-move dept
However, on Friday, somewhat unexpectedly, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he was massively limiting a federal program that helped make these seizures so valuable to police:
“With this new policy, effective immediately, the Justice Department is taking an important step to prohibit federal agency adoptions of state and local seizures, except for public safety reasons,” Holder said in a statement.There's still more to be done to fix bad asset seizure and forfeiture laws, but this is a really big step forward.
Holder’s decision allows some limited exceptions, including illegal firearms, ammunition, explosives and property associated with child pornography, a small fraction of the total. This would eliminate virtually all cash and vehicle seizures made by local and state police from the program.
While police can continue to make seizures under their own state laws, the federal program was easy to use and required most of the proceeds from the seizures to go to local and state police departments. Many states require seized proceeds to go into the general fund.
Of course, just watch as police departments start to protest that they can no longer go "shopping" for "toys" that they can steal:
The policy will touch policing and local budgets in every state. Since 2001, about 7,600 of the nation’s 18,000 police departments and task forces have participated in Equitable Sharing. For hundreds of police departments and sheriff’s offices the seizure proceeds accounted for 20 percent or more of their annual budgets in recent years.Either way, kudos to Holder for making this move.