Civil Asset Forfeiture

Police Union Head Wonders Why Everybody Suddenly Wants Them to Stop Stealing People's Stuff

It's the worst defense of civil asset forfeiture you'll read today, or possibly ever.


Chuck Canterbury
Fraternal Order of Police

If you want to get a sense of how poorly police unions grasp why the citizenry have grown more and more upset with them, check out this absolutely awful commentary by Chuck Canterbury, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, over at The Daily Caller.

Canterbury's here to defend civil asset forfeiture, the process by which police seize and keep the money and assets of citizens who are suspected of crimes. This type of forfeiture is facing bipartisan calls for reform because the police are seizing property on the basis of just suspicion, not conviction. The consequence has been the creation of massive "civil" bureaucratic process designed to grab and keep the property of people who are ultimately never even charged with criminal behavior. It is legalized theft.

Canterbury declares the push for reform to be a "fake issue" and is opposing any effort to eliminate the federal Equitable Sharing program (the Department of Justice program that allows municipal police to partner with the feds for seizures and for police to keep up to 80 percent of what they grab) just because somebody writes "a sympathetic piece describing a case in which the system may not have functioned as intended."

Note the many issue deflections and deliberate omissions in Canterbury's argument:

At a time when the number of officers is declining, federal assistance to state and local agencies is evaporating and deliberate attacks on law enforcement officers are rising, how can this issue be a law enforcement priority? Why are anecdotal accounts in the media suddenly making this a priority in the editorial pages of some newspapers?

For over 30 years, the asset forfeiture program has allowed law enforcement to deprive criminals of both the proceeds and tools of crime. The resources provided by the equitable sharing program have allowed agencies to participate in joint task forces to thwart and deter serious criminal activity and terrorism, purchase equipment, provide training upgrade technology, engage their communities, and better protect their officers. It has been remarkably successful.

A sarcastic paraphrase: "How can you be so concerned about police stealing and keeping citizen property when we're being attacked? What is wrong with you?"

The anecdotal accounts of police misuse of forfeiture are making the news because there's a bipartisan realization that civil forfeiture violates the citizenry's property rights. Canterbury deliberately and purposefully suggests that the program is only used against "criminals" when that's absolutely not the case. That's why it's called a "civil" asset forfeiture. Authorities go after the property itself in a civil, not criminal, court, accusing the property of being involved in a crime. This means that the property owners are deliberately not provided the same due process as somebody accused of criminal behavior. The threshold for taking property away through a civil administrative system is deliberately lower than convicting somebody, and Canterbury knows it.

The forfeiture program has indeed been "remarkably successful" in separating citizens from their property. The grotesque abuses of the program were what earned it so much negative attention. And property-defending attorneys with the Institute for Justice have been taking on cases and going to the press with them to help the public understand what is actually going on here.

And when the public does understand how civil asset forfeiture works, they don't like it. They really, really don't like it. Polls show that majority opposition to civil asset forfeiture cuts across all demographics. It is truly bipartisan distaste for the process of taking property from people without convicting them of crimes.

If Canterbury or anybody representing the police unions have any doubts that they're on the wrong side on this, check out the comments under his piece. No, really! At The Daily Caller, a significantly conservative site, there is not a single commenter defending Canterbury's position.

And why should they? One of Canterbury's arguments is that asset forfeiture provides the police with money to buy things that they want. It's literally an argument in favor of stealing! If any of us were to take somebody's money then use it to buy something that helps other people, it would still be theft. The police would arrest us. This is not a conservative defense of asset forfeiture. He instead ends up highlighting how the police's behavior here is downright criminal.

You can read about so many more of these "anecdotes" about police abuse of the asset forfeiture here at Reason. Our coverage of the horrors of asset forfeiture go back years. It's not some hot new thing we've just noticed.

NEXT: Why Was Carrier Considering Moving to Mexico in the First Place?

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  1. Ban police unions, full stop

    1. You spelled “all public sector” wrong

      1. Yes, ban the public sector. Now we’re talking.

  2. I don’t know, maybe quit acting like thieves and revenuers and you’ll get more sympathy for being attacked. Sure, it’s a non-sequitur, but then so is denying the fundamental injustice of asset forfeiture because some cops got shot.

    1. Not really a non-sequitur; if I regard someone as dishonest and malicious, I have a hard time caring when something bad happens to them.

  3. Man, i am having a really hard time giving any fucks about this guy’s concerns.

    1. I tried to give a fuck about your lack of fucks to give, but I’m coming up short.

      1. Don’t worry, we don’t find any fucks given about your lack of fucks given here, either…

          1. want to join the apathy party?

            1. Why bother?

            2. Naaahh.

            3. I don’t care enough, nor have the energy, to leave the Apathy Party.

            4. Depends. Do y’all have any weed?

            5. I didn’t leave the apathy party. The apathy party left me.

              1. +1
                Tell it to someone who cares.

        1. I’m sure you’ll find some fucks to give in the last place you look

          1. I was just going to mash the keyboard with my fist, but then I got some motivation to kjlnmklj lkj mkj kjnb ashgccfcjklkj

          2. People should stop giving fucks. It cheapens the value of fucks everywhere. In the marketplace of fucks, mine is clearly superior, but I can’t hardly make a living on what I can get for fucks these days.

        2. The problem with this subthread is it’s clear we need a federal minimum fucks.

          1. Fuck that. [shotguns Pabst, runs away]

            1. you need to learn the thumb gun.
              then you can up it to both hands

        3. I am also out of fucks to give, but here’s a rat’s ass.

          1. Geez, and I thought I’d finally figured out how to post links. How does this thing work, anyway?

            1. Never mind, I think I figured it out. Still no fucks to give, but here’s that rat’s ass.

      2. fuck it…

    2. I think I have a single fuck left to give… aaaand it’s gone.

      /South Park Office Guy

    3. Sorry can’t help you out there.

  4. If this is how the union thinks, disband them. They clearly have no interest in what’s good for the citizens – who pay their effen salaries.

    Cops must sometimes envy mobsters.

    1. Cops must sometimes envy mobsters.

      You have that backwards.

      1. Yeh. Good point.

        1. Mobsters don’t get to confiscate over half the income of many people, and the income of pretty much everyone, while still enjoying good PR.

          Unless there mobsters calling themselves “government agents”.

          Government is what mobsters dream of becoming — people licensed to steal without having to resort to violence in the vast majority of cases.

      2. Yep if a mobster shoots a cop, business is bad for everyone else in the mob, and so as a result mobsters have a strong incentive not to shoot cops.

        If a cop shoots a mobster, then a thorough investigation will reveal that procedures were followed, and he will probably get a commendation for getting such a dangerous criminal off the street..

        1. OTOH, if a typically bent cop and a mobster shoot each-other, who hits the ground first?

          Who cares?

    2. Unions of every kinds don’t care how those not in the union are harmed by the union’s actions. They don’t even really care what happens to the people *in* the union as long as the union brass continues to benefit.

  5. So the cops are like leftists, they believe all of your stuff actually belongs to them and are just waiting for their chance to take it?

    1. And that you should be grateful, too, because they are heroes.

  6. Perhaps Mr. Canterbury will find himself on the receiving end of an isolated incident.

  7. [comment redacted due to mother reminding me of “If you can’t say anything nice….”]

  8. “….and Canterbury knows it.”

    You must not know that many cops. I would not at all be certain that Canterbury knows anything at all about civil forfeiture other than the fact that it provides more revenue for the department to pay raises.

    And if you don’t believe me, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat in labor negotiations with police unions telling me how they deserve more money because of all the money they “raise” through civil forfeiture and the grossly-euphemismisticly named “Equitable Sharing” program.

  9. At a time when the number of officers is declining,

    #1 = Crime is declining, and has been for 30 years.

    When there is less crime, we need less cops

    federal assistance to state and local agencies is evaporating

    #2 = See #1

    why do you need more assistance in an environment of long-term secular decline in crime?

    Also, #3 = bullshit

    Since the invention of the DHS, states have been swimming in federal monies, which has allowed states to go goo-goo with adding SWAT teams and special training and all sorts of other luxurious goodies cops now consider “essentials”

    Losing those special bennies isn’t a tragedy

    deliberate attacks on law enforcement officers are rising,

    …maybe? but #4 = from a baseline that is the lowest in history*, in either per-capita or absolute terms

    (*annual police fatalities)

    and given how small the samples and shoddy the data, i don’t know if that’s even demonstrably true. police deaths are down from the early 2000s

    1. how can this issue be a law enforcement priority?

      #5 = total fucking non-sequitur

      none of those (all incorrect) things you listed has anything to do with the unconstitutional seizure of people’s property, you dumb fucking mook

      the fact that you like the stuff you steal isn’t an argument

      1. At a time when the number of officers is declining, federal assistance to state and local agencies is evaporating and deliberate attacks on law enforcement officers are rising, how can this issue be a law enforcement priority?

        As a twist on your non sequitur observation — in a way, he’s right. It’s a meta law enforcement priority, if you will. That is, some judge should shut the fucker down as unconstitutional.

  10. OT: What is it about liberals and Andy Borowitz? My prog friends are sharing this “joke” he posted earlier today. Is there something I’m not getting here? Do they really think this is insightful or something?

    Andy Borowitz
    2 hrs ?

    Republicans to Replace Obamacare with Death

      1. A thing that works for the New Yorker that posts bad jokes about anyone who isn’t a New York liberal

        1. Ah, a Nixon Clinton voter then.

    1. Don’t you remember how everyone was dying in the streets because there was no healthcare before Obamacare?

      1. You see, just like how politicians are secretly lizard people, liberals are secretly fish people. With fishperson short memories, they can only remember today and yesterday. Anything past that they do not recall.

        This is why, four years ago, the fishpeople had forgotten they were antiwar eight years ago. It is why they have already forgotten that they backed a pro-war candidate this election in denouncing Trump, and it is why they cannot conceive of a world without Obamacare.

        Liberals are fish. Do the math, it checks out.

      2. My much lower family deductible was killing me. KILLING ME.

    2. Before Obamacare, people relied on witch doctors and faith-healing

        1. *i once witnessed that actually *work*…

          but that aside, yes.

          technically, its probably just ‘faith healing for hippies’. but it wins simply on the hilarity of the term.

          1. I’m much less chipper about it since I’ve seen a reiki practitioner accept $300 checks from mentally ill people for 1 hour sessions. It’s a sweet racket I just have too much shame to get into.

            1. I’ve seen a reiki practitioner accept $300 checks from mentally ill people for 1 hour sessions.

              That’s atrocious. tho i’m surprised he didn’t only accept cash. even the ‘mentally ill’ may have misgivings when the thrill wears off.

              The instance i saw someone whip out their reiki skills was while rock climbing a few miles away from any roads. a kid had a fall and was convinced he’d broken his leg. older dude applied his magic hands for about 30 mins, and voila – kid goes, “i think i can walk on it”. He walks out to his car and drives home. next day, he’s in the hospital with a fractured tibia and shattered kneecap. he said to me later, “i swear it felt fine for a few hours”.

              Obviously that’s not “healing” – at best you could call it Magical Painkillers – but it was remarkable nevertheless.

              The guy who worked that magic went on to become some big shot in the strange world of “Zen Achery” (Kyduo) like, the first white ‘Grandmaster’ or something. I’m pretty sure “Reiki” had nothing to do with it, and he’s just like super Kung-Fu.

      1. Neither of which are free so we’re back to where we started.

    3. The way they see it, this has nothing to do with expense, market inefficiency, etc. The only reason you would want to take away Obamacare is because of pure heartlessness.

      In their minds if you see a problem, you use the full force of government to stop it. It’s the same people who say things like “if this is the richest country on earth why are there poor people?” Well, because of lots of reasons. They think like children.

      1. Before O-care, my wife and I paid less than 200 a month for awesome insurance. The deductible was 1000 dollars.

        That plan doesn’t even exist anymore, and to get close would cost me over a grand each month.

        And I know others that have it much worse.

        1. Well it’s too bad that if you were forced to go back to that you would die.

          1. Ikr?

            All that great care I got and money I saved was an evil GOP ploy.

        2. You must not have liked your old plan enough. If you had, you would have been able to keep it.

      2. “They think like children.”

        This explains nearly every progressive position. Fucking children of the corn, though.

    4. Look, it’s “funny” if you remember the following totally not made up “facts”:

      1. Everything is an emergency
      2. Nobody can prepare for or prevent emergencies
      3. Emergency rooms demand payment on entry
      4. The poor were dying in the streets en masse not 5 years ago
      5. Doctors save people’s lives but they should shut up and do what they’re told

      1. Emergency rooms demand payment on entry

        This one irks me. You often see reference to how the poor are denied basic life-saving care because of inability to pay. Bullshit. You can always go and get treated and sort out the finances later.

        1. The fact that so many people who said “we have to reform healthcare” had not the slightest knowledge of existing “reforms” like HMO or EMTALA was astonishing (never mind “we have to pass it to find out what’s in it”). The application of Chesterton’s Fence is especially important when the “need” seems greatest.

        2. By “denied basic life-saving care” they really mean a free supply of Oxycontin that they can resell on the black market.

          1. But if it’s free, who would buy it?

    5. We now spend more than any other country on healthcare with a declining life expectancy.

      The Democrats laugh with Andy because they think Obamacare worked. They lose elections because no one else does.

      1. So we now spend the most on both healthcare and education and are still bottom-of-the-barrel in results among developed nations. Nice.

        1. Obviously we aren’t spending enough! C’mon! Open those wallets and give until it hurts!

        2. In education? When you disaggregate by race? That…seems unlikely.

    6. I’m still working on “delete your account”.

      But that’s an old joke that resurfaces everytime obamacare comes up, like when Paul Ryan wheeled that sick old lady off the cliff and Romney killed that guys wife by giving her cancer.

  11. And the consequence for the police if they’re wrong and take the property of someone who is either never charged or acquitted is what?

    There’s your problem FOPhole.

  12. To a bureaucrat, the “moral” justification for asset forfeiture is exactly the same as the moral justification for all other taxation.

  13. Hey, I found another Canterbury Tale

    “…if I thought for an instant that Judge Sotomayor’s presence on the [Supreme] Court posed a threat to the Second Amendment, I would not be sitting here supporting her today.” – Testimony concerning Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, July 16, 2009, p. 820

    “I can find nothing in the Second Amendment’s text, history, or underlying rationale that could warrant characterizing it as ‘fundamental’ insofar as it seeks to protect the keeping and bearing of arms for private self-defense purposes….[T]he Fourteenth Amendment does not ‘incorporate’ the Second Amendment’s right ‘to keep and bear Arms.'”- Dissenting opinion by Justice Breyer, joined by Justice Sotomayor, in McDonald v. Chicago, June 28, 2010

    1. Well, see, if you believe that the 2A exists as a collective right of the state militias, and is not an individual right at all, then yes, Sotomayor is not a threat to the 2A.

    2. The lack of reading comprehension is astounding, even among those who support the Bill of Rights. Even without a 2nd Amendment, Congress still wouldn’t have the power to infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms.

      It would take a new amendment granting this power. Everything not explicitly mentioned as allowed by the Constitution is out of reach of the three branches of the government, even if an amendment mentions that something definitely isn’t a power of theirs.

      1. If they could always do whatever they wanted, why bother having a Constitution spelling out things they are allowed to do?

        Why was it necessary to pass an amendment to outlaw alcohol?

        Why do I sound like Judge Napolitano?

        And why doesn’t he write more often for Reason?

        1. He asks too many questions 😀

  14. Let’s parse this:

    At a time when the number of officers is declining, federal assistance to state and local agencies is evaporating

    Everything before the comma is a lie.
    Everything after it is basically “All our other forms of theft are drying up.”

    Crybullies can go fuck themselves.

    1. Yeah, well, if they have to fire cops because of lack of funding, who’s going to stand around at 7-11 and drink those complimentary sodas?

      1. no one ever thinks of the roid dealers.

  15. The interesting paradox is that, while one can argue not all police are taking innocent people’s property, one can argue that not all people who are getting their property taken are criminals. Both sides are trying to hold onto potential tools for criminal activity.

    The remedy to this situation? Give me all the property and authority.

    1. The trains would run on time.

    2. L’etat, c’est Eugene.

    3. Since all police are paid with tax money, all police are taking innocent people’s property.

  16. how can this issue be a law enforcement priority?

    It’s not a law enforcement priority, you dumb fuck; it’s a citizen priority. Citizens you’ve been stealing from like fucking Bonnie & Clyde.

  17. have allowed agencies to participate in joint task forces

    Has there ever been a joint task force about anything that should actually be a crime?

    1. Like stealing people’s stuff so you can spend your ill-gotten profits on task forces?

    2. Terrorism? Child sex trafficking?*

      * = Should be a crime != Justifies dubious dickwaving and fundraising

      1. OK, terrorism. And to the extent that child sex trafficking actually exists.

        But I bet a joint task force is not really the best way to combat either of these.

        1. And neither of those types of joint task forces bring in the dough that Officer Grubby is after.

          1. Agreed on all fronts.

  18. For over 30 years, the asset forfeiture program has allowed law enforcement to deprive criminals of both the proceeds and tools of crime.

    Sorry asshole, they are not a criminal unless they’ve been convicted of being a criminal. Your fucking highway robbery is the only criminal act here.

  19. “How dare you cast your vile unworthy gaze upon me?”

  20. Alternate headline: “Crime Pays”, says FOP president Chuck Canterbury.

  21. Rand Paul is starting to scare me.

    “WASHINGTON?Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) said Wednesday that he would oppose the budget measure Republicans are counting on to begin the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act, leaving the effort in danger of derailing if any other GOP senators defect.

    The Senate on Wednesday took its first procedural vote on the budget measure, a vehicle that Republicans can use to repeal the 2010 health-care law with a simple majority vote. Republicans now hold only 52 seats in the Senate, where most legislation needs 60 votes to pass.

    Mr. Paul said Wednesday he would vote against the budget measure because it adds too much to the federal budget deficit for fiscal year 2017.

    “I’m a no,” he said in a brief interview. “It adds $9.7 trillion in debt over 10 years.”

    “Rand Paul Endangers Health Law Repeal”…..1483557210

    It’s possible to do the wrong thing for good reasons–but it’s the wrong thing, Rand.

    You gotta take advantage opportunities you get. The budget will still be there to cut next year.

    If we don’t repeal ObamaCare now, we might never get to fundamentally replace it with something better.

    1. Like nothing? I’d say yes to nothing as a replacement.

    2. Rand is right. One step forward and 5 steps back is not progress.

    3. 9.7 Trillion Dollars. That’s 9.7 million million Dollars.

      The Republicans have – at least – the next 2 years to repeal ACA. They only have right now to show they really care about limited spending and balancing a budget.

    4. If you don’t oppose a bad budget now on principled grounds, where will your principles be next year?

      Shoving stuff like this into must pass bills is a favorite tool of the political class. One of my favorite changes in the Confederate Constitution was “Every law, or resolution having the force of law, shall relate to but one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.”

      If you could ignore that little part about slavery, they made several very good changes.

      A few more for good measure …

      It explicitly banned their federal government from favoring any branch of industry in any way via duties or taxes on imports.

      It required appropriations to have specific line item amounts for specific purposes and banned any additional payments to anyone after the initial contract had been made or services rendered.

      It most forcefully banned Congress from appropriating any money for the facilitation of commerce aside from a very few specific cases involving water transportations such as buoys, lighthouses and dredging, and, even in those, duties were to be laid on the navigation that got those improvements until they were paid for.

      It required a 2/3 vote for approval of federal appropriations outside of a limited list of purposes as well as for taxes or duties on exports.

      It explicitly banned their federal government from favoring any branch of industry in any way via duties or taxes on imports.

      It made the Post Office pay for itself after the first two years.

  22. “For over 30 years, the asset forfeiture program has allowed law enforcement to deprive criminals of both the proceeds and tools of crime.”

    And now the citizens are going to end the asset forfeiture program so that we can “deprive criminals of both the proceeds and tools of crime.”

  23. Chuck Canterbury….get the Hell out of my country. Real Americans don’t treat each other this way.

    Your coward ass belongs in Caracas, Havana, or perhaps Pyongyang.

    1. His coward ass should be making french fries at Arby’s.

  24. Let’s just cut to the chase, which is the money:

    For over 30 years, the asset forfeiture program has allowed law enforcement to deprive criminals of both the proceeds and tools of crime.

    You can do that by either (i) letting all the proceeds go into the general fund, and none to your agency or (ii) not seizing assets from “criminals” who have not been convicted of a crime (that is, aren’t criminals for legal purposes). Or both.

    The resources provided by the equitable sharing program have allowed agencies to participate in joint task forces to thwart and deter serious criminal activity and terrorism

    Umm, this is backwards. The seizures don’t allow you to participate in joint task forces, the joint task forces allow you to participate in seizures.

    purchase equipment, provide training upgrade technology, engage their communities, and better protect their officers.

    What I’m hearing is that these aren’t really priorities, since you don’t ask for them to be paid out of your core budget, funded by the taxes of the towns you actually “serve and protect”.

  25. For over 30 years, the asset forfeiture program has allowed law enforcement to deprive criminals of both the proceeds and tools of crime.

    There are criminals who are convicted, and criminals who get off. Asset forfeiture allows the police to take assets away from the criminals who get off. But they are still criminals. If the cops say they are criminals, then they are criminals. Cops are never wrong. You gonna say they are wrong? Try it. They’ll beat the shit out of you and kill you if you are lucky, and nothing else will happen. Because they are never wrong.

  26. Nixon was convicted of a crime. Did he get any of his property seized ?

    1. No he wasn’t, he resigned before he was impeached and charged.

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  28. Well, I suspect, without any basis whatsoever, that ol’ Chuck might have taken a bribe sometime, maybe. So we take his house, car, bank account, and pension, and then he can petition to get it all back. Is that the way it works?
    didn’t think so . . . . .

  29. Make it so that a crime requires an “unwilling victim” or reckless endangerment. The number of police necessary under such a legal system would be a fraction of what we have today.

  30. It just goes to show how insulated they are and ignorant of the Constitution. I would rather see 100 criminals get to keep their illicit earnings than see 1 person who is innocent lose their savings/property/whatever. It’s the principle that matters. One of the main reasons people want to be a cop is to be seen as a boon to society. And he wonders why numbers are down? Act like cops and not like criminals, you buffoon.

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