Civil Liberties

St. Louis Cops Turn Forfeiture Policy Into Free Car Rental Service


Seems that the city of St. Louis, like many cities, allows the police to confiscate the cars of people suspected (but not necessarily convicted) of certain crimes. They have a contract with a city towing firm, and said firm was allowing police officers and their families to "rent" confiscated cars free of charge, sometimes for months on end. Officers and their families could also sometimes purchase the confiscated cars at a fraction of the cars' value.

All of that is pretty outrageous. But it gets better.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch stumbled onto the story after investigating the daughter of the city's police chief. She had been involved in a number of accidents with different cars. On several occasions she had wrecked a car, then simply gone down to the towing service to get a 60-80 percent discount on a new one. After one accident, her blood-alcohol concentration tested at .17. She wasn't arrested or charged. The department says it has "no idea" why she was let go.

The police department hired a law firm, which concluded that the towing arrangement broke no rules or laws. The chief improbably claims he was oblivious to the deals his daughter was getting (her relationship with the towing service apparently goes back to 2002). The Post-Dispatch reports that the chief's last public statement on the matter was that, "the absolute necessity in maintaining transparency in the eyes of the public."

He has since declined to comment.