More transparency needed on civil asset forfeiture

Bloomington Herald-Times, March 10, 2015 (Comments)

To the Editor:

Civil asset forfeiture has (thankfully) come under increased scrutiny in recent months.

People who have not even been charged with a crime – much less actually convicted of one – can have their money and property seized by law enforcement, usually in the name of the “war on drugs.” It can be an arduous and expensive process even for an innocent person to get his money and property back.

The Obama administration has made an encouraging step in limiting civil asset forfeiture, though it was limited in scope and leaves too much of this policy untouched even at the federal level – not to mention local and state uses of this tool.

Several weeks ago, I submitted a series of questions to the Bloomington Police Department regarding civil asset forfeiture. One of the questions was how much money and property is seized on an annual basis, but the BPD said such records are protected as “investigatory records.”

One does not need to reveal details of specific investigations to provide a total of all money and property confiscated. I call on both city and county government to be more transparent regarding forfeiture, and for the state legislature to mandate more transparency.

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