90 Miles From Tyranny : How California Cities Are Making Millions Seizing Property and Money From Law-Abiding Citizens

Thursday, April 30, 2015

How California Cities Are Making Millions Seizing Property and Money From Law-Abiding Citizens

In a small number of cities clustered in Los Angeles County, Calif., people are seeing their property and money seized by law enforcement through civil asset forfeiture, and it’s making police departments tens of millions of dollars.

California has safeguards in place to protect innocent people from the harmful practices of civil asset forfeiture. However, a new report from the Drug Policy Alliance found that such measures haven’t stopped law enforcement agencies from using federal forfeiture laws to circumvent state policies.

The Drug Policy Alliance, an organization focused on drug policy reforms, examined the cities that lead California in seizures per capita. The cities—Baldwin Park, Beverly Hills, Gardena, Irwindale, La Verne, Pomona, South Gate, Vernon and West Covina—are all located around Los Angeles County and collected more than $43 million in revenue from forfeitures between 2006 and 2013.

“We use federal forfeiture,” Baldwin Park Police Capt. David Reynoso told the Drug Policy Alliance. “It’s just more beneficial to us.”

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Baldwin Park, with a population of 75,390, collected $4.9 million in federal forfeiture revenue from 2006 to 2013 and participated in 565 seizures from 2008 to 2013.

The city of Irwindale, meanwhile, saw $802,800 in revenue from the Justice Department’s forfeiture program and has a population of 1,422.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance’s findings, law enforcement agencies in the California cities studied used revenue from civil asset forfeiture to pay for...
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