If you want to get a sense of how poorly police unions grasp why the citizenry have grown more and more upset with them, check out this absolutely awful commentary by Chuck Canterbury, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, over at The Daily Caller.
Canterbury’s here to defend civil asset forfeiture, the process by which police seize and keep the money and assets of citizens who are suspected of crimes. This type of forfeiture is facing bipartisan calls for reform because the police are seizing property on the basis of just suspicion, not conviction. The consequence has been the creation of massive “civil” bureaucratic process designed to grab and keep the property of people who are ultimately never even charged with criminal behavior. It is legalized theft.
Canterbury declares the push for reform to be a “fake issue” and is opposing any effort to eliminate the federal Equitable Sharing program (the Department of Justice program that allows municipal police to partner with the feds for seizures and for police to keep up to 80 percent of what they grab) just because somebody writes “a sympathetic piece describing a case in which the system may not have functioned as intended.”
The anecdotal accounts of police misuse of forfeiture are making the news because there’s a bipartisan realization that civil forfeiture violates the citizenry’s property rights. Canterbury deliberately and purposefully suggests that the program is only used against “criminals” when that’s absolutely not the case. That’s why it’s called a “civil” asset forfeiture. Authorities go after the property itself in a civil, not criminal, court, accusing the property of being involved in a crime. This means that the property owners are deliberately not provided the same due process as somebody accused of criminal behavior. The threshold for taking property away through a civil administrative system is deliberately lower than convicting somebody, and Canterbury knows it.
The forfeiture program has indeed been “remarkably successful” in separating citizens from their property. The grotesque abuses of the program were what earned it so much negative attention. And property-defending attorneys with the Institute for Justice have been taking on cases and going to the press with them to help the public understand what is actually going on here.