Police departments relying on seized assets for their budgets

The role of police departments is to protect public safety and enforce the criminal laws of Georgia. When police are provided with incentives to make arrests and facilitate convictions, it can create a situation in which their judgment is improperly influenced. More and more frequently however, Georgia police departments are relying on vehicles, weapons and cash that they seize from criminal suspects for regular operation of their departments.

It is not implausible that a police officer knowing his department needs a new patrol car, might more easily determine that there is probable cause to pull over and search a vehicle if that vehicle might be seized for use by the police department.

Over the last few years, the value of the property and money forfeited in Georgia has been growing steadily, adding up to almost $56 million dollars last year. Of that amount, Georgia law enforcement agencies received almost $30 million.

In this time when state and local budgets are squeezed, it is likely that additional assets for a law enforcement agency are being put towards maintain staffing levels and ensuring annual wage increases. This creates a very real potential for law enforcement personnel to feel motivated to make arrests based on factors other than whether they reasonably believe someone is breaking a law.

Many salespeople work on commission. The majority of their salary is dependent on making the sale. For these salespeople, every person looks like a customer. If our police departments are operating under a similar principle, isn’t it likely that every citizen looks like a criminal?

Source: The Republic, “Georgia police upgrading cars and gear with increasingly lucrative seizures of cash, property,” March 28, 2012