You don’t have to be convicted of a crime — or even accused of one — for police to seize your car or other property. It’s legal. Several videos online are shedding some light on the controversial practice.
The practice is called civil asset forfeiture, and every year it brings cities millions of dollars in revenue, which often goes directly to the police budget. Police confiscate cars, jewelry, cash and homes they think are connected to crime. But the people these things belong to may have done nothing wrong.
In one video posted by The New York Times, Harry S. Connelly, the city attorney of Las Cruces, N.M., gleefully describes how the city collects these “little goodies,” calling it a “gold mine.”
He describes to a roomful of local officials from across the state how Las Cruces police officers waited outside a bar for a man they hoped would walk out drunk because they “could hardly wait” to get their hands on his 2008 Mercedes, which they then hoped to put up for auction.
“We could be czars,” he tells the room. “We could own the city. We could be in the real estate business.”