Sheriffs Say Forfeiture Reform Threatens Public Safety

Less loot means higher taxes, cops warn.



Here is some evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder's forfeiture reform, although less dramatic than portrayed by much of the press, nevertheless will do some good: The National Sheriffs' Association (NSA) is "deeply disappointed" by it. The NSA complains that a decrease in foreiture loot "will reduce law enforcement capability to respond to 911 calls" and undermine "our work on major crimes, drug cases, human trafficking, and other threats to public safety." It warns that "the result will be an impact on local taxpayers in the form of tax hikes."

Such complaints only confirm that law enforcement agencies have become dangerously dependent on forfeiture revenue, which according to the NSA provides essential funding for basic police services. The Washington Post found that "298 departments and 210 task forces have seized the equivalent of 20 percent or more of their annual budgets since 2008." That situation perverts police priorities and invites corruption, since it encourages cops to target people based on the seizable assets they own, as opposed to their criminal culpability. 

The NSA is not worried only by the loss of revenue. "Equally troubling," it says, "is that this decision puts law enforcement lives at risk by the continual barrage against law enforcement." By this logic, any reform that addresses police abuse endangers cops' lives by accepting the possibility of such abuse.