U.S. Department of Justice
agents have frozen an estimated $30 million slush fund the Bal
Harbour, Florida police department amassed via civil forfeiture,
which allows officers to seize property without charging anyone
with a crime. The department, which protects and serves a
population of 2,574 outside Miami, is under investigation for
misuse of the funds and missing records. Via
The Miami Herald: ; ;
In all, the team has helped take in $19.3 million from criminals
in the past three and a half years in more than a half-dozen states
and Puerto Rico, with the village raking in $8.35 million.
The village only keeps a portion of the profits because of
equitable sharing, a federal program that lets local police
circumvent state law governing forfeitures. Florida law
provides more more protections for property owners than federal
statutes so cops turn their seizures over to the feds who
effectively launder it through federal courts and return some of it
to the seizing agency. More from the Herald:
[Police Chief Thomas] Hunker said the squad does more in the war
against drugs by hitting the dealers where it hurts the most: their
However, several experts said the village’s practices raise
disturbing questions about cops targeting cash rather than
criminals—and operating thousands of miles from Bal Harbour.
…In 2010 alone, village cops took part in 23 cases leading to
$8.2 million in seizures—all outside of Florida—without law
enforcement agents making a single arrest, records show.
…for years, the money rained on Bal Harbour: $100,000 for a
35-foot boat powered by three Mercury outboards, $108,000 for a
mobile command truck equipped with satellite and flat-screen TVs,
$25,463 for next generation Taser X-2s.
There was $7,000 for a police chiefs’ banquet, $45,839 for a
Chevy Tahoe, $26,473 for Apple computers, $15,000 for a laser
virtual firing range and $21,000 for an anti-drug beach bash.
…In just one month, records show police plunked down $23,704
mostly on trips to Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and
Tampa—including two first-class flights to California—and rentals
of a Cadillac SRX and a Lincoln Town Car.
…. In the past nine months, auditors have put the village
through the most rigorous review it has ever faced, with demands
for bank statements, payroll records, ledgers and receipts.
For the first time, agents have demanded explanations for the
thousands of dollars doled out to snitches, as well as payroll
records for two Bal Harbour cops stationed in Southern California
and Charlotte County on Florida’s west coast.
See here for
Reason’s extensive archive of asset forfeiture abuse.
Original article -