Criminal Justice

Police Tell Woman to Pay Son's Bail in Cash, Then Steal it

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The partnership is very effective.

Here's a Wisconsin story that needs more attention, care of former Reasoner Radley Balko:

On Feb. 29, a judge set [Joel] Greer's bail at $7,500, and his mother called the Brown County jail to see where and how she could get him out. "The police specifically told us to bring cash," Greer says. "Not a cashier's check or a credit card. They said cash."

So Greer and her family visited a series of ATMs, and on March 1, she brought the money to the jail, thinking she'd be taking Joel Greer home. But she left without her money, or her son.

Instead jail officials called in the same Drug Task Force that arrested Greer. A drug-sniffing dog inspected the Greers' cash, and about a half-hour later, Beverly Greer said, a police officer told her the dog had alerted to the presence of narcotics on the bills—and that the police department would be confiscating the bail money. […]

The Greers had been subjected to civil asset forfeiture, a policy that lets police confiscate money and property even if they can only loosely connect them to drug activity. The cash, or revenue from the property seized, often goes back to the coffers of the police department that confiscated it.

The good news: The Greers eventually got their money back. The bad news: This kind of organized police theft of property from people who are not even charged with a crime is common nationwide.

Read all about it in Balko's February 2010 Reason feature, "The Forfeiture Racket: Police and prosecutors won't give up their license to steal."