Saturday, January 17, 2015


Over the past week or so, I've read a couple of articles that have been recommended to me by people on Google+. Both of them have to do with law enforcement and money. One was about police officials in New York cracking down on officers for the recent slowdown there - the author's speculation (without much basis, it turns out) was that the crackdown was motivated by a dropoff in revenue from tickets and whatnot, and the city was becoming antsy for money. The other was about Attorney General Eric Holder's recent actions to limit Equitable Sharing of funds seized by state and local police departments - often as a way for officers to get around the stringent requirements attached to Civil Asset Forfeiture - and the requirement that money go into the general fund, rather than directly to the police department.

What both of these things have in common is that they wind up being ways in which the government draws money out of poor communities. Fines and fees for non-payment of tickets and the like tend to escalate quickly for people who don't have the money to pay them off, and Civil Asset Forfietures arising from traffic stops tend to fall mainly on people who operate in the cash economy - who tend to be poor. On the other hand, they allow the rest of us to get by on a somewhat cheaper ride than we would otherwise get.

“There is some grave concern about the possible loss of significant funding while local police and state police are being asked to do more and more each year.”
Bill Johnson, executive director, National Association of Police Organizations
Holder limits seized-asset sharing process that split billions with local, state police
This is part of the reason why programs like this lasted for as long as they have - they allowed the police agencies that participated in them to increase their funding levels, without needing to ask for tax increases. And the people most often injured by the seizures were easily written off. As a nation, we need to be less willing to throw one another under the bus.

No comments: