Pubdate: Sat, 16 Apr 2016
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: Diane Goldstein
Note: Goldstein, a 21-year veteran of law enforcement who retired as 
the first female lieutenant for the Redondo Beach Police Department, 
is executive board member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition 
(LEAP) and a member of the Moms United To End The War on Drugs 
Steering Committee.


An article in Harper's Magazine recently shined light on the sordid 
history of our country's war on drugs, revealing that it was really a 
war on people.

The article quotes John Ehrlichman, President Nixon's domestic policy 
adviser, admitting that the Nixon White House knew they could not 
"make it illegal to be either against the [Vietnam] war or black" but 
that "by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana 
and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily" they 
could disrupt communities. "Did we know we were lying about the 
drugs?" he said, "Of course we did."

Recently, the Justice Department announced it would resume "equitable 
sharing," a controversial drug-war-era program that allows state and 
local law enforcement to use federal civil asset forfeiture laws to 
take and keep innocent people's money and property, and thereby 
circumvent state law - which in California affords innocent people 
greater protections against police abuse.

As a retired law enforcement professional, I struggle with the 
paradoxes of law enforcement, and wonder how we can compromise our 
values, missions and ethics to engage in enforcement practices that 
were never based on public safety, but political expediency coupled 
with racism.

At the same time, this paradox helped me understand why the police 
lobby engaged in the same dirty tactics of the Nixon administration 
to defend their asset forfeiture practices last year, policies used 
as means of sustaining funding and power.

Civil asset forfeiture authorizes law enforcement to seize and keep 
cash and property from individuals without having to convict - or 
even charge - them with a crime.

SB 443 was introduced by Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, to 
remedy this unconstitutional grab by government officials.

It would close the "equitable sharing" loophole that allows police to 
ignore California law, which generally requires that a person be 
convicted before the government can permanently keep someone's 
property, and use federal law instead, which does not require an 
underlying conviction and permits up to 80 percent of seized assets 
to be returned back to police involved in that seizure.

While many law enforcement professionals accept that our mission is 
to enforce the law, not to write the law, last year, the police lobby 
blocked SB 443, which would protect the fundamental property rights 
of innocent residents.

SB 443 would curb abuses that arise when police and prosecutors have 
a financial incentive to take people's property.

The Washington Post in its investigatory series compiled expenditures 
from 2008 to 2014 that are submitted through annual self-reported 
audits. California agencies spent $381 million alone.

The California District Attorneys Association (CDAA), in a letter to 
legislators that helped block the bill, claimed DAs need to seize 
assets in order to help fund things such as drug treatment and 
prevention and other community programs.

But contrary to the CDAA statement, police themselves reported that 
they spent just 0.4 percent of their total seizures on community 
programs over six years.

Clearly, forfeiture money is not being spent to support community 
programs or to treat and prevent substance abuse so why engage in 
deliberate mischaracterization? It's this lack of accountability and 
transparency that should concern all of us, and that SB 443 would correct.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom