Civil Asset Forfeiture

New Mexico Cops Worry That Forfeiture Reform Will Hurt the Drug War

And what's the downside?


Farmington Police Department

Last spring the New Mexico legislature unanimously enacted a law that abolishes civil forfeiture, requiring the government to obtain a conviction before taking property allegedly linked to crime, and assigns revenue from seizures to the state's general fund instead of letting law enforcement agencies keep it. The Farmington Daily Times reports that New Mexico cops miss the money, saying they may just seize less stuff now that they no longer have a profit motive. They say they may even be forced to dial back the war on drugs. So far, in other words, there's no downside.

"We're going to try not to seize," said Farmington Police Chief  Steve Hebbe. Sgt. Kyle Dowdy, director of the Region II Narcotics Task Force, said that in recent years forfeiture has accounted for a quarter of his budget. Dowdy "said the task force may have to reduce the amount of equipment it buys, such as wiretaps and cameras, and train less often." He added that training "is essential to catching criminals who are constantly changing the methods they use to distribute drugs." Dowdy also worries that anti-drug task forces like his will have to contend with a conflict between the new ban on keeping seized property and federal grant conditions, which include a requirement that seized vehicles and equipment be used for law enforcement.

The legislators who voted for New Mexico's reforms mainly sought to protect innocent owners by makiing forfeiture harder and less financially rewarding for the agencies initiating it. But if those changes also result in fewer drug busts and fewer people sent to prison for engaging in peaceful activities, that only strengthens the case for revoking cops' license to steal.

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  1. No more roadside colonoscopies.

    1. this guy’s the commanding officer of the Farmington police? Wow this is like, straight out of The Shield.

      1. I’m a different kind of cop.

  2. “We’re going to try not to seize,” said Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe.

    Cops need to be taught not to seize.

    1. It seems to be involuntary for them so I’m not sure they can control it.

      1. An addiction to money!?

    2. A telling statement.

    3. As an epileptic, I find Stevie’s comment triggering. He needs to be placed on payed vaca…. erm… Administrative leave.

  3. “We’re going to try not to seize,” said Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe.

    Bull. Fucking. Shit.

  4. My heart weeps for these poor cops, having to hold back from stealing without cause. What heartbreak they must be feeling.

  5. “We’re going to try not to seize,” said Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe.

    Yeah, and a junkie is gonna try not to shoot up.

  6. Speaking of…how’s NYPD’s stand-down on petty crime going? There hasn’t been a single follow-up that I’ve seen.

    1. I think they called it off awhile back. The City wasn’t being reduced to a radioactive wasteland fought over by cannibal gangs, after all, and I think the Mayor said something nice about the cops.

  7. It’s a fundamental libertarian problem that rarely gets discussed.

    In the transformation to a more libertarian society, what do we do with all the useless government employees?

    If you’ve got a PhD, maybe somebody will hire you to teach somewhere. If you’re in a STEM field, maybe you can find something to do. Apart from that, if you’ve been a government employee (outside of the armed forces) for more than ten years, you’d have to find a lunatic to want to hire you.

    In the real world, you’re expected to think for yourself, take initiative, etc.–not to mention provide more of a return for the company with your labor than your company pays you. You lose all of that, along with your soul, after you’ve worked for the government for more than ten years. The only thing government employees have to offer is that they’re meticulous–but then so is a shell script, and half the government could probably be replaced by a couple of very short shell scripts.

    But what do we do, as libertarians, with all those useless government employees? They’re often the biggest obstacle to a more libertarian world, in part, because in their heart of hearts, they know they’re overpaid and useless. No one in their right mind would pay them so much to be so useless, and they know it.

    1. I say we start buying them out. Cap the number of government employees, and give them their pensions early so they can be useless at home. From a liberty maximization perspective, it’s better to pay them to sit on their hands and breathe through their noses at home than it is to for them to try to make like they’re useful by oppressing black people in the name of the Drug War, isn’t it?

      1. In my view, this would be money well-spent.

        1. Yeah, it sucks paying people to do nothing, but I think the cost/benefit analysis in this situation pencils nicely.

          Especially if they’re willing to take less pay to stay home, it’ll end up saving us money.

    2. Soylent green.

    3. They can swing a hammer or wash dishes or something. Fuck them. They made their bed.

      1. Purely philosophically, I agree, but since there are a lot more of them than us, if we say “fuck them”, they’ll say “fuck you” back, and we’re the ones that will continue to get fucked.

        In an ideal world, I’d like to not pay them for them to not do their job, but since we don’t live in anything that looks like an ideal world, I’d rather pay them to not do their job, than pay them to do their job. :-/

        1. There most assuredly are not “a lot more of them than us.”

          There are over 300 million people in the US – you tryin to say that there are over 200 million gov’t employees? Even at that, 2X is far from “a lot” more.

          Now. . . if there were 275 million gov’t employees and

          1. I think he might have meant libertarians, not people in general.

            BTW, I think government employees get a bum rap. Having been a government contractor most of my life, I know a lot of government employees, and most of them have a strong work ethic and want to serve the people, but they also want a steady income. They are often hamstrung by the politicians that employ them. And why am I a government contractor? I have a STEM degree, and was initially given a choice among polishing rocks, teaching, military research or fixing computers at the Pentagon. I realized that the only reason physicists are prized is that they made a big boom at the end of WWII and played into the hands of those who wanted to control us all with fear. I managed to find another option, but it wasn’t easy. And why a contractor, and not an actual government employee? It is because of privatization, which some people believe is more efficent than government, but is really just a ploy to funnel more money into the hands of bankers at the public’s expense. Private companies are good at making a profit, not necessarily serving the real needs of their customers – in this case, the public, or even of their own employees. I am close to retirement, but never got to do what I wanted to do, because it would have been classified for military purposes and I refused. We need a government to control the bankers. Unfortunately, it has become the other way around. And libertarians are just playing into their hands.

      2. But we may have to offer them something in order to get them to go away.

        Look at a place like Chicago, where the police union has the city government locked up so tight. If ending the Drug War federally was going to cost them jobs, wouldn’t they initiate a new Drug War of their own?

        They run everything in that city, and they’re not going to take a sizable chunk of their force suddenly being made useless lying down. And aren’t most cities east of St. Louis like that?

        And it isn’t just cops and the Drug War. We’ve got 50,000 people working at the Department of Commerce. They won’t just go away. They’re useless and they know it! Rather than wait for the American people to get the stomach to sic the national guard on them when they’re demonstrating in the streets after their jobs have been eliminate by good sense, maybe we can pay them to go away–and get them out of there a lot sooner.

        Wouldn’t paying them less than they make now to do nothing be better than paying them more to do something destructive?

        1. Everyone is blaming the cops for the excesses of the drug war. They are just victims themselves, although I’ll admit it certainly doesn’t seem that way. The drug war was started by rich people wanting to make more of a profit at everyone else’s expense, and the drug war has paid them handsomely.

          1. i don’t care. They’re not as much victims as their victims are.

    4. More seriously, I’m with Ken Schultz on this one.

      Just keep paying them their base rate (no overtime, clearly) to sit home. Limit them to only collecting one salary at a time, obviously, so if they do go out and get another job, they only get the pay from that one, or hell, give them whatever remains, or possibly some sort of slightly advanced rate to encourage them to work and become useful.

      Pulling numbers straight out of my ass, presuming they were making $50k before, and they get a job for $25k, the difference is $25k, but the government kicks out $35k instead. Net $15k win for the taxpayer there, but the former govvie gets something out of actually working instead of just raking in his guaranteed for doing nothing salary, too. Make the diminish point something like 150% of their base rate, say $75k, with a diminishing curve that meets at the zero point. (Actually, I’m not sure if it should be linear, or a curve, or even which way the curve should be bulged. But we want there to be an incentive for them to eventually wean themselves off the tit.)

      They could go to school, learn a useful skill, and become productive members of society. But even if they choose to sit around and watch internet porn all day, it’s a net win for them to collect money and not do their former jobs.

      1. I would agree with that except that there are very few government workers who know they are parasites. Sure, get a few drinks in them and plenty of them would agree that they’re underworked and overpaid, but few of them think their work is actually unecessary if not downright counterproductive. They aren’t going to want to sit at home and collect a welfare check when they could be a productive member of society collecting a government paycheck. and you are not going to be able to convince them that people sitting at home collecting welfare checks are more productive members of society than government workers. You’re just going to have to find some way of turning a big chunk of the government work force into the equivalent of a team of hole-diggers/hole-filler-inners – but you can’t let them know that’s what they’ve become and that we’re all better off having them do pointless busywork.

        1. And it’s not just government workers – how many GM employees do you suppose would agree with the assertion that when a company (like GM) goes bankrupt it’s a clear signal that they should stop taking valuable resources and turning them into less-valuable products, that what they’re doing is not only not creating value but destroying value? That’s supposed to be how the market works – you go bankrupt because the thing you are producing is less valuable than the resources you are using to produce it. Going bankrupt is supposed to make you stop doing stupid shit, but good luck trying to get that idea through anybody’s thick skull when the idea of a free lunch takes up so much crainial real estate.

        2. Maybe we can have them count the hairs on the backs of caterpillars by touch.

    5. In the transformation to a more libertarian society, what do we do with all the useless government employees?

      Why do “we” have to do anything? They are adults. Let them figure it out.

      Sure, pay ’em a fat severance – a month per year, capped at 12 months. A better deal, still, than us proles get out in the real world (absent a few muckety-mucks who have captured their boards). That’s more than enough.

      1. The problem is that all the incentives are there for them to stay.

        They fight libertarianism tooth and nail specifically because of those incentives.

        We’re talking about 15 to 20 percent of the workforce.

        Not all of them need to be bought out, but some strategic buyouts would make a lot of sense.

        Buying out police who control so much of local politics, for instance, would especially make sense–if that’s what it takes to get rid of the Drug War.

        Their opposition to ending the Drug War isn’t generally on philosophical grounds. I think their opposition is based mostly on the fact that if the Drug War ends, their career advancement opportunities are likely to be severely limited in the future, and if they’re laid off, nobody needs them for anything. More pay for cops drives all their other thinking. What makes ending the Drug War any different?

        So what do you do when you’ve signed a really bad lease?

        You don’t just sit there and suffer. You buy yourself out of it.

      2. I don’t think people realize just how much of our economy is driven by the government, which itself is driven by private corporations protecting and enhancing their profits by paying off politicians and putting their competition in jail. I would like to know what all of the people posting here do for a living, and if they realize just how much of what they do is connected to this whole scam.

    6. Same thing that happened to all the buggy whip makers.

      1. Imagine one case scenario, where the government is mostly controlled by the police. We imagine that the police are responsible to the city council, but in reality, the no one gets on the city council unless it’s okay with police union.

        Now the city council is deciding whether to legalize marijuana.

        Why would would a majority of the people on the city council vote to legalize recreational marijuana if the police union is against it?

        They never would unless we changed the game somehow.

        That scenario perfectly describes Chicago, but to a greater or lesser degree, it also describes the city politics of of other cities, the state politics of other states, and the politics of the federal government, as well–and not just in relation to the Drug War.

        How do you deal with politicians whose offices depend on appeasing government contracts and government workers? How do you get them to vote to eliminate those contracts and those workers’ jobs? If it were possible to replace such politicians with libertarians, those libertarians wouldn’t last long if they eliminated those contracts and those jobs. Those slighted interests would quickly unify behind another politician who promised to guarantee their access to the government trough.

        1. The solution is going straight to the source of the problem, and the problem is that government workers have a tremendous amount of clout and representation, and they won’t sit by and watch their jobs go down the drain–certainly not just because the Drug War (or any other program) is racist, evil, destructive, and stupid.

          The politicians should be working for the taxpayers, in this regard, but they don’t. Instead, the taxpayers work for the government employees. Why would the government employees that work for the Treasury Department let politicians eliminate the income tax, when there are a hundred thousand IRS employees at the IRS dealing with tax returns–and they’re all completely unemployable outside of government?

          The only answer would be that we’d have to offer them something better than what they’ve got, and if we can offer them something that would cost us less than what we’re presently paying them–and eliminates all the evil and destruction of the income tax, too–then we should absolutely offer to let them retire early in exchange for eliminating their awful income tax.

          1. Government workers have no clout, or else they wouldn’t put up with the shit that they do. One of my last jobs was a choice between fighting illegal drugs or pushing even more damaging legal drugs. There was no win-win there.

  8. Armed robbery is a hard habit to break.

  9. This article is the opposite of a nut-punch. I can only hope they continue to not steal stuff, dial back their drug war activities, and preferably rot on the vine until they disappear.

  10. Farmington, eh? Fitting. I’ll bet Vic Mackey loved him some forfeiture.

    1. Since it sits on a major route out of CO into NM, I bet he really, really did.

  11. …requiring the government to obtain a conviction before taking property allegedly linked to crime…
    The cops are convinced they are entitled to take what they want and to do as they please – how much more of a conviction do you want?

    1. Well, they take peoples shit.. due to the strength of their convictions.. moral fiber is a separate issue.

  12. The fact that they are complaining about the new law means the new law must have some good in it.

  13. BUWAAHHAHAHAAAAHAAAA!!! Thnx, Reason. I needed that headline.

  14. The thieves need some way to pay their bloated budgets! Sounds like they are addicted to the adrenalin, and the booty!

  15. F*ck Tha Police. And F*ck Libertarians.

  16. Win/Win excellent

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