It probably seemed like a bright idea at the time: Let the police seize the ill-gotten gains of alleged drug dealers and other suspected criminals and sell it, using the proceeds to buy much-needed crime-fighting gear.
Unfortunately, the process—civil asset forfeiture—did not require convicting anybody of a crime. In fact, it didn't even require charging anybody with a crime. Not surprisingly, writes A. Barton Hinkle, this led to rampant abuse, which has been abundantly documented for many years. Various reform efforts, including a 2000 federal law, have been unable to stop what's become known as policing for profit.