ACLU, Beacon Center to jointly lobby for reform of ‘policing for profit’ laws

The American Civil Liberties Union, usually depicted as left-wing in politics, and the Beacon Center of Tennessee, usually depicted as right-wing, are jointly backing reform of state police forfeiture laws – known as “policing for profit” by critics.

From TNReport’s report:

One issue critics have taken with the operation of the state’s drug task forces is that they’re funded through asset seizures, which they say creates an incentive to seize cash and property, rather than focusing on drug seizures.

Beacon’s “top priority will be to send all forfeited property to the state’s general fund,” according to a statement from Lindsay Boyd, the center’s policy director. Taking this step would “remove the perverse incentives associated with the current system” by stopping officers from lining “agency budgets with the proceeds confiscated from search and seizures,” she said.

Hedy Weinberg, executive director Tennessee ACLU, said a step in the right direction would be to remove the appearance of the profit-seeking incentive. She added that they would also like to see a requirement for arrest and conviction before property can be seized, as well as shifting from the individual to the government the burden of proof to justify a seizure. Law enforcement agencies should also provide better data in instances where property or cash is seized from individuals, in order for the state to discover the true “extent and prevalence” of the practice, Weinberg said.

Both organizations said they’re still in discussions with lawmakers to work out the specifics of the legislative action.

State Sen. Mike Bell, a Riceville Republican and lest session’s chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee, has said he is working on a bill to address the matter, but the particulars aren’t mailed down. “I’m still trying to figure out exactly how I’m going to approach this,” said Bell, who chaired a Senate hearing last year that took a look at the oversight of the state’s Judicial Drug Task Forces. He added that he expects several bills dealing with the issue this year.