The injustice of “policing for profit” — and how to end it | Dick M. Carpenter II

Picture yourself driving
down the road tomorrow, heading somewhere to buy an item
you found on Craigslist, perhaps a nice mountain bike
for 3,000 dollars. At that price, it’s probably
one of those bikes with a little electric motor on it — (Laughter) maybe some streamers from the handlebars. (Laughter) The seller has declared this
a cash-only deal, so you have, in the console
of your car, 3,000 dollars. Suddenly, you are pulled over. During the stop, the officer asks, “Do you have any drugs, weapons
or large amounts of cash in your car?” You truthfully answer, “Yes,” not to the drugs or to the weapons, but to the cash. In the blink of an eye,
you are ordered out of your car. The officer searches it
and finds your cash. On the spot, he seizes it, and he says he suspects
it’s part of a drug crime. A few days later, the local district attorney files
paperwork to keep your money — permanently. And all of this happens without you ever being charged
or convicted of any crime. Now, you might be saying, “Ah, this would never happen
in the United States.” (Laughter) Incidents like this occur
every day in our country. It’s one of the most significant threats
to your property rights most people have never even heard of. It’s called “civil forfeiture.” Most of you are generally aware
of criminal forfeiture, although the term itself
might be a little unfamiliar, so let’s begin with forfeiture. When we forfeit something,
we give up that thing, or we’re forced to give it up. In criminal forfeiture, someone is charged
and convicted of a crime, and therefore, they have to give up
property related to that crime. For example, suppose you use your car
to transport and deal drugs. You’re caught and convicted; now you have to give up
or forfeit your car as part of the sentencing. That’s criminal forfeiture. But in civil forfeiture,
no person is charged with a crime — the property is charged
and convicted of a crime. (Laughter) You heard that correctly: the government actually convicts
an inanimate object with a crime. It’s as if that thing itself
committed the crime. That’s why civil forfeiture cases
have these really peculiar names, like, “The United States of America
v. One 1990 Ford Thunderbird.” (Laughter) Or “The State of Oklahoma
v. 53,234 Dollars in Cash.” (Laughter) Or my personal favorite: “The United States of America
v. One Solid Gold Object in the Form of a Rooster.” (Laughter) Now, you’re thinking: How does something like this happen? That’s exactly what I said when
I first learned about civil forfeiture while on a road trip with my wife. No, we did not get pulled over. (Laughter) I was reading about
the history of civil forfeiture as part of my work as a research
director at the law firm, and I came across
one of the cases I just mentioned, “The United States of America
v. One 1990 Ford Thunderbird.” In that case, Carol Thomas
loaned her car to her son. While in the car, her son committed
a minor drug crime. Carol didn’t commit any crime, so law enforcement couldn’t
convict her and take the car, but they could — and did — use civil forfeiture
to “convict the car” and take it. Carol was completely innocent,
but she lost her car nonetheless. In other words, she was punished for a crime
she did not commit. When I read this, I was gobsmacked. How could this occur? How is this even legal? It turns out, it began in our country
with maritime law. Early in our republic, the government
sought to fight piracy — yes, actual pirates. The problem was the government
often couldn’t catch the pirates, so instead it used civil forfeiture
to convict the pirates’ property and take it, and therefore deny the pirates
their illegal profits. Of course, the government could’ve simply
taken and kept the booty without necessarily
using civil forfeiture, but doing so would have violated our most basic due process
and property rights. Now, the government rarely used
civil forfeiture until the 1980s and the war on drugs. We expanded civil forfeiture law
to cover drug crimes and then later, other types of crime. Canada and the European Union
adopted similar provisions so that now all kinds of people
are ensnared in the forfeiture web, people like Russ Caswell. Russ Caswell owned a small budget motel
in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. His father built the motel in 1955,
and Russ took it over in the 1980s. During the years
that Russ owned the motel, from time to time,
people would rent rooms, and they would commit drug crimes. Russ didn’t condone the activities — in fact, whenever he found out about it,
he would immediately call police. Russ was entirely innocent of any crime, but that did not stop the US Department
of Justice from seizing his motel simply because other people
committed crimes there. But Russ’s case was not alone. Between 1997 and 2016, the US Department of Justice
took more than 635,000 properties. This means each year, tens of thousands of people
lose their properties in cases in which they’re never charged
or convicted of any crime. And we’re not necessarily talking about
major drug kingpins or headline-grabbing financial fraudsters whose cases involve hundreds of thousands
if not millions of dollars. Many of these seizures and forfeitures
involve just everyday people like Russ Caswell or you or me. But it gets worse. Are you wondering: Where does all this cash
and property end up? In most places, law enforcement keeps it. And they use it to buy equipment or pay for building repairs or even pay salaries and overtime. This is a clear conflict of interest. It creates a perverse profit incentive
that can distort law enforcement. And this is a problem that’s not lost
on those in law enforcement, either. Former chief of police in Rochester,
Minnesota, Roger Peterson, described the choice
that police officers often face. As he described it: suppose I’m a police officer, and I see a drug deal. Now I face a choice: Do I go after the buyer
and remove from the street illegal drugs, or do I go after the seller and get cash for my agency to use? So it’s easy to see why
a police officer might go for the cash. It was just such a circumstance that compelled police officers
in Philadelphia to seize an entire house. In 2014, Chris and Markela Sourovelis’ son
sold 40 dollars worth of drugs down the street from their house. Forty dollars. The police watched the deal go down. They could’ve arrested the buyer
and confiscated the drugs, but they didn’t. They could’ve arrested
the Sourovelises’ son right there on the street and grabbed 40 dollars. But they didn’t. They waited to arrest him at home, because then they could seize
their entire house. The house was worth 350,000 dollars. That is what I mean
by a perverse profit incentive. But the Sourovelises’ case was no outlier. Philadelphia, the “City
of Brotherly Love,” the “Athens of America,” the “Cradle of Liberty,”
birthplace to the Constitution, home to the Liberty Bell
and Independence Hall, the “City that Loves you Back” — (Laughter) that Philadelphia was running
a forfeiture machine. Between 2002 and 2016, Philadelphia took more than 77 million
dollars through forfeiture, including 1,200 homes. Cars, jewelry, electronics —
all of it they sold, the proceeds they kept. And they would have
kept right on doing it, had it not been
for a class-action lawsuit — our team’s class-action lawsuit — (Applause and cheers) Thank you. We forced them to change
their forfeiture practices and to compensate victims. (Applause and cheers) When our team first began
researching forfeiture in 2007, we had no idea how much
forfeiture revenue there was. In fact, no one knew. It wasn’t until our groundbreaking study,
“Policing for Profit,” that we found federal law
enforcement agencies have taken in almost 40 billion dollars — billion with a B — since 2001, more than 80 percent of that
through civil forfeiture. Unfortunately, we have no idea how much state and local
agencies have taken in, because in many states,
they don’t have to report it. So until we reform forfeiture, we’ll never know how much
forfeiture activity actually occurs in the United States. And we desperately need reform. Legislatures should abolish
civil forfeiture and replace it with criminal forfeiture. And all forfeiture proceeds
should go to a neutral fund such as a general fund. When forfeiture proceeds stop hitting
law enforcement budgets directly, that is when we will end
policing for profit. (Applause) Now, as you can imagine, law enforcement officials
don’t love these recommendations. (Laughter) They stand to lose a lot of money, and they believe civil forfeiture
is an effective crime-fighting tool. The trouble is, it’s not. In June 2019, we released a study that found forfeiture does not
improve crime-fighting. And the report also found that law enforcement agencies
pursue more forfeiture money during economic downturns. So when city and county budgets are tight, law enforcement will use forfeiture
to find the money. So it’s no wonder, then, that law enforcement officials
predict a criminal apocalypse — (Laughter) if these reforms are adopted. But some states have
already implemented them, and we’re pushing for reform
all across the country, because until we reform forfeiture, this is something that could
happen to any of us. It can happen in the United States, it can happen in the United Kingdom, it can happen in countries
throughout the European Union and beyond. People like you and me
and the Sourovelises and Russ Caswell, just doing the everyday stuff of life, can be caught in a scheme
we never thought possible. It is time we end policing for profit once and for all. Thank you. (Applause and cheers)

100 thoughts on “The injustice of “policing for profit” — and how to end it | Dick M. Carpenter II

  1. No more armed police men.

    No more private prisons, aka modern plantations used for slave labor.

    No more POLICING men. Come when you’re called, don’t patrol our neighborhoods.

    We need a system run by the people FOR the people, not for the corporate class who worships property ownership over human life!

    This is my vision for a safer, more cohesive future in the States. Socialism is not a dirty word, it is the embodiment of EQUALITY:

  2. Everyone remember when stoped by a cop never answer any questions, that means where you coming from to do know how fast you were going. You never need to allow a cop to violate your rights. Never agree to searches or seizures ( 4th amendment ) if you give the thin blue line gang members a inch they take a mile.

  3. I hope who reads this will be successful one day Let's do our best from Japanese youtuber🇯🇵

  4. Same extortion is used in family court. But more subtle…in payment for court fees created through case churning by judges. I am in Phila. How many public officials we're indicted for what is essentially organized crime? Zero.

  5. A few years ago a steering wheel lock of mine that I tried to give to my son as a gift for him with a car at home got forfeited at the courthouse when we got there because as a grandmother they thought I might use it on someone after I left the courthouse too? It took many phone calls for me to get it back. A long series of property forfeitures I went through only because I am a female parent who isn't perfect, like a day here and there yelling at home when frustrated, wasn't very good at detecting someone not good to marry. Here in this city there is a specialist with more than one specialty who lost much of his property to the court house too. So in truth who was the racist one here in this city I live in?

  6. Some cops don't report it and just pocket it also,. Crooks. Remember the pen is mightier than the sword. When the cop comes up to your window just say I don't answer questions,. And only leave your window cracked,. Don't give in to the police pirates,. And honestly if I had a 350,000 dollar house that got seized over 40 $ than shhh would hit the fan,. As a Hunter lol they wouldn't stand a chance

  7. Civil forfeiture is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Police in the United States m*rd*r thousands of citizens every year. Over a thousand a year that they are forced to admit to because they are caught, which does not include the thousands that go unreported. Police brutality cases are like Roaches, for everyone you see there are a thousand you don't.

    In addition to these thousands m*rd*r*d directly there are tens of thousands m*rd*r*d by police indirectly due to the standard operating procedure of charge stacking by police and prosecutors that force citizens to plead guilty to crimes they do not commit. Every death that occurs in prison of a citizen that is a victim of charge stacking is a m*rd*r by police. Every homeless person that dies in the street from exposure because they can't get a job due to an unjust criminal record because of charge stacking is a m*rd*r by police.

    Everything children are taught about the US justice system in school are lies. Less than 10% of the American population ever receive a trial due to the immoral and unjust charge stacking standard operating procedure of police and prosecutors, which has made the United States the largest penal colony on Earth.

  8. I appreciate your concept, but I disagree. If you have better case, you can find more drugs in there… You forgot to mention that in the Pennsylvania house… Should've mentioned it.skewed. if there's 40$ worth there's obviously more in the house.

  9. This is EXACTLY why they FUEL crime by causing poverty. They make easy $$$ off of criminals. They make innocent people criminals with this bs too.

  10. Cops are unconstitutional… (Sheriffs are constitutional).. After the Boston Tea Party of 1773, Cops were created by Sir Robert Peel of London Metro (1829) and infiltrated Boston as mayors with their own 'police force' to enforce taxes. The infiltration continued until they surrounded the South and created a war- "Tax War" aka 'civil war.' The South didnt want to be apart of the Treasonous Taxed state as in 1862 Abe Lincoln created the IRS. The South wanted to leave the Union and be free. 1865 a National Patriot stood up and killed Abe Lincoln and shouted (something like) "Death to all Tyrants"-John Wilkes Booth. The constitution does not have a penal code on purpose for it was 'We the People' were supposed to police ourselves. When the police force works for and represents the mayor bad things happen. There was no way the left could have ever created the IRS, FED, if they didnt create a 'pro tax police force.' Now you know why the LEFT hates the Confederate Flag. it represents Freedom from Tyranny. Cops are 100% unconstitutional. NEVER BACK THE BLUE!!!

  11. Let's talk about how somehow we think its a fun game to exort young adults just as if rapist for viewing pornographic images "which are too young" then extort them for the rest of their lives using a "3 Tier Risk Rating" tracking system so that lawyers, counselors, psychiatrists, pharmacists, and future accusers can use to extort anyone on that list for as long as they are too poor to buy enough lawyers to get their name off of it.. Solution to all that extortion? Raise the minimum age for photographic material from 18 to 21 years. That should easily pass.. ending political profits as the tag "teen" as a category would become illegal essentially across all Adult websites. Prostitution made politically acceptable by photography and paying the male actor more money. Eight "teen" shouldn't be confused with the word ADULT.. Nine "teen" is not ADULT . Police do not seem to understand this – maybe it is more profitable not to?

  12. On the subject of Philadelphia, look in to Philadelphia County's Register of Wills. That particular "branch" is over-looked and never considered, however, when examined it is quite clear they're running a racket on the elderly and their properties.

  13. 2020(G) “Respect and dignity.” Furthermore: (Vice) <—> (Truth & Facts) >—< (Vice) •—• •—• (South Park Studios) <—> (Truth & Facts) >—< South Park Studios ••• “Respect and dignity, 2020?”

    2020(G) “Respect and dignity.” Furthermore:

  14. Allow people to make their own drugs and educate them on their effects and its limits but in times like these who needs drugs?

  15. Is that where all the stuff I couldn't find over the years went?
    Constitutional conflict of interest.
    I wonder how many agents collecting property think to themselves, "This is ridiculous, but I have to do my job or else."
    Yea class actions that force changes for the good.
    Sounds like a new specialty for law students and lawyers wanting to establish a practice.

  16. All so true. I wish you talked (and do a class-action lawsuit) about the traffic ticket mafia, especially those that end up in DUI charges.

  17. I get it and civil forfeiture is abused but when the officer asks if you got lots of cash in the car the answer is always no. Ask an attorney. Your attorney will tell you. Don't give an officer probable cause to escalate the encounter by being honest and confessing. A confession is not good for you.

  18. Wouldn't it be nice if the good guys could take over the corrupt police and start serving and protecting again? Why is it always the dodgy ones that ruin everything? [Rhetoric question, I know the answer].

  19. Ty for this!!! Point Blank know your laws and rights!! P.S Philadelphia pa isn’t the city of brother ❤️!!!

  20. "O you who have believed, do not consume usury, doubled and multiplied, but fear Allah that you may be successful"
    [3 : 130]

  21. This is what happens when we empower people to have authority over us. They take and take and take, to the point of being able to just take your property, then justify it with silliness like State vs. Your Property. Freedom from tyranny requires vigilance. It should never have gotten to this point in the first place.

  22. I've just added you to my list of heroes. Well done, sir, and thank you for telling us! I had no idea this was happening.

  23. Could it be that the police was alerting friends and relatives when the properties and valuables were coming to auction, so they can buy everything cheaper?

  24. If only this was the singular exploitative revenue model being used. The entire justice system runs on a profit principle. In states where there is no civil forfeiture there are something like 50x as many citations issued. All states use private multi-billion dollar detention services. Nearly every county in this country has a corrupt permit system siphoning billions directly from the lowest income bracket. Civil forfeiture is kinda like piss in a public pool. Sure, it's gross, but you can only tell it from the rest of the disgusting predatory water if you are close to it happening. This whole country is built on the exploitation of those too weak and/or poor to defend themselves. From the ground up. Every institution. Every department. It's all exploitation for profit.

  25. How else are the police supposed to pay for their incompetence. If they only used taxpayers money, there would be no money with how many times the cops have to compensate their victims.

  26. Wow. Good suggestions for remedying a problem, but it doesn't address the real question at the root of the problem: What do you do when the enforcers are that corrupt and unethical? I know it's "not all cops" – but dang! Sounds like some entire departments were lousy corrupt in this case.

  27. As long as this mostly affects black communities, its all good in the "silent majority" could care less! Have you ever seen large amounts of wealthy whites having their property taken by cops?

  28. Thanks for the explanation. Everything ingenious is simple. 📌 Watch Best $500 Favor in my Videos 💰

  29. House/Car for most is used for living and transportation. House/Car used to stash and transport illegal drugs. Profit from illegal drugs used to pay for House/Car. House foreclosure…car repo.

  30. First good sjw topic in quite some time. I'd advise for a rich white cis male quota to drastically improve outcomes.

  31. Legal Corruption, obviously. It's a lovely, quaint idea to believe we have any power against those of the police state who are corruped over money & also who are powerful enough to make this corruption legal. Are you really trying to get us to believe we can do anything when ALL of our efforts to change this corrupt BS & seek justice have failed? They don't care about us.

  32. Why is it nobody in the legal profession (i.e. judges and police) never have property they own or work in be subject to forfeiture? A lot of crimes take place in jails, police departments, etc., and none of those get taken. Also, why is the property being "charged with a crime" not allowed given a public attorney and allowed to defend itself?

    A big concern is police just taking stuff because they want it, or planting "evidence" in order to take property that they want.

  33. thats some messed up stuff man. i heard john oliver talking about the same thing on last week tonight.

  34. This is just a proof of how greed has been so extended across this system that even it's confused as it was a "rigth" think to do… it's not because the humans are greedy by Nature…no it's because the Capitalism system often pull the worst from them….

  35. 03:18 Tax cuts that mainly favor the rich and in turn create budget problems for local government. When you have already cut cost to the bone, people pay more for schooling indirectly, lack of worker rights mean that average buying power is down and you have some large employer company that employs fewer and fewer while also not paying taxes because profits are outsourced and in turn VAT revenue is lower than before. Then you need to get funds from somewhere that that somewhere is everybody from middle and down. More traffic stops, higher fees for "insert whatever", more forfeiture and so on…

    Oh, money dont go to other than police? Thanks, I will cut police budget then and use the savings elsewhere were its needed. Oh, I am the bad guy because I want sewer and phone lines to function, to at least have schools open with teachers and so on…

    Americans do NOT understand governance. Instead they opt to change symptoms (ref TED talk "conclusion") rather than the cause. People need to understand that issues like this TED talk happen because people are not paying their fair share of taxes and instead opt to push the burden on those that has less ability to defend themselves.

  36. There is an ocean of injustice and illogical in the US law system. In the other words, all this ”legal system ” reminds the structure of mafia. And what you sir are talking about is only the tip of the iceberg.

  37. I have been aware of this for awhile. I believe that these actions by police are crimmial. Someday when war comes to our street cops will run and hide. They know their guilty.

  38. Thank you so much fo me shining light on yet ANOTHER egregious failure from our most trusted institutions… I myself was charged with double digit felonies in a much larger conspiracy in which ended with the chief of police being forced to resign , 30 cases being dropped , an FBI investigation, a dead lead drug detective who committed suicide after being found out Of his decades of the most criminal and shotty detective work being exposed . Long story short , you can google CORPORAL
    MIKE MITCHELL SIERRA SIERRA VISTA Police SCANDAL… all of my charges were dropped , but After the SIERRA VISTA police department and their cohorts took all of my stuff from my house , 5 months in jail , $1,800 in taken cash from wallet … anyway no one ever told me I had to pursue defense in my CIVIL CASE , the public defender in my criminal case could not help me … I even had to arrange for transportation to the courthouse if I were to go fight for my money back … FYI these laws which first introduced with the RICO laws Have been challenged all the way to the Supreme Court like 5-6 times and have obviously been shot down… ARIZONA is also one of the largest prison states ( for profit) but also in cash seizures … your local PD doesn’t have to TELL ANYONE what they did , or even … how much they seized …I’ve read stories from anonymous retired cops stating entire departments partook in lavish Christmas parties , bacholer parties funded in Vegas , and monster trucks purchased from said funds … Sierra vista is on the Mexican border in the heart of SINILOA cartel territory, so needless to say they seize a lot!!! When is someone going to be able to put a stop to this BS ??? How about we end private prisons while we’re at it !!! Legalize drugs like Portugal ( look at the statistics PLEASE to see why we should) and take back our government in this country where power is being abused , the rich get richer . While the poor get poorer !!

  39. The proceeds of crime and drugs damage our society, money or not the statistics of the human toll speaks for itself

  40. I have never been asked nor have I ever heard of a police officer ask if there is large amount of cash in any vehicle ever til now

  41. 🇺🇸 Benjamin Franklin — “He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.”

  42. He said it best. The country needs reforms across the board. Because I can smell anarchy and revolution as the latter.

  43. I like the idea however there is a key step not mentioned, disbanding the police union. They all vote together and since we are told this is a republic, the second step will never see the light of day. Remember kitties strength in numbers

  44. The lecture will not be interesting in Russia since impounding, forfeiture, harrasement and intimidation is considered part of jurisprudence.

  45. This has been going on for a long time. Here's an old news investigation that found police stopping out of state drivers on a highway hoping to find cash. Stops are made far more often on the side of the highway where they suspect drug cash is moving while they don't bother drivers in the opposite direction to stop the drugs coming in.

  46. Without addressing the disproportional effect civil forfeiture and over-policing has on black communities, we are missing a vital piece of the story and history.

  47. The government on civil forfeiture in the 18th century: We need an effective method to stop the pirates!
    The government on civil forfeiture since 1980: We have an effective method to BE the pirates!

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