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How is policing affected by fines, fees, and civil asset forfeitures?

Feb 14, 2022 by Greg Glod

Americans for Prosperity is proud to release a new report: “The Impact of Fines, Fees, and Forfeitures on Policing.”

Written by Sheriff (Ret.) Currie Myers, PH.D., MBA, the paper dives into how poor financial incentives within law enforcement warp the core functions of public safety and improving community relations.

Police agencies and local governments rely significantly on fines, fees, and property forfeitures from citizens to fund their budgets. Research suggests that police departments who collect higher shares of their revenue from fines, fees, and forfeitures solve crime at significantly lower rates.

Civil asset forfeiture allows the government to take ownership of your property without ever convicting or charging you with a crime.

Most state laws make it easy for governments to forfeit property and hard for the owners of that forfeited property to fight the civil forfeiture in court due to low standards of proof and the low values of property and cash that are normally seized.

In some states, law enforcement can keep up to 100 percent of the proceeds from a forfeiture, creating bad incentives to over-value this type of police activity.

Civil asset forfeiture undermines legislatures’ powers of the purse and invites questionable expenditures by allowing agencies to fund themselves outside the normal appropriations process — and with little oversight.

Sheriff Myers offers five solutions to the issue of fines, fees, and forfeitures in policing:
  1. End/limit the justice system’s reliance on these methods of funding.
  2. Allow for alternatives/waivers of payment.
  3. End policing quotas.
  4. Require jurisdictions to be transparent about the types of fines and fees they impose.
  5. End the practice of suspending drivers’ licenses for failing to pay fines and fees.

State and local governments have a responsibility to back their police agencies so the relationships between their police and their community are respected and transparent. Not funding them adequately and instead using other “special revenue categories” counters the hard work law enforcement does every day to gain the public trust.

Download the full paper.