Using imaginary statistics of rising crime and the need to re-enlist in the lost “war on drugs,” the Department of Justice and Jeff Sessions have decided to go all in on civil asset forfeiture. The Washington Post reported that on Wednesday, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent out his Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to deliver the news that the movement away from robbing citizens was over.
“You’re never going to eliminate allegations of abuses,” Rosenstein said, “never going to eliminate mistakes 100 percent. But I think this new policy is going to position us very well to make sure there are very few credible allegations of abuse, and where there are we’re going to make it a priority to follow up.”
The new policy from Attorney General Jeff Sessions authorizes federal “adoption” of assets seized by state and local police when the conduct that led to the seizures violates federal law. Rosenstein said that the department is adding safeguards to ensure that police have sufficient evidence of criminal activity when property is seized. Property owners will receive notice of their rights within 45 days, which is twice as quickly as required by current law. Law enforcement agencies will be required to provide officers with more training on asset forfeiture laws, he said.
The fact that Sessions’s DOJ made this announcement isn’t surprising. Ending the civil asset forfeiture program has been something Sessions knew had bipartisan support, so rolling it back needed some finessing. But “finesse” isn’t a strong suit for either Jeff Sessions or his boss. This is not simply a step back, this is a giant leap backward, as the movement away from civil asset forfeiture includes only having your stuff forfeited because you were convicted of a crime. Sessions is already using the Trumponian 1984 spin of saying things that are true in their syntax but not true in his actions.
Earlier this week, Sessions told the National District Attorneys Association that “no criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.”
Which is why they will allow the police to keep people’s stuff without them being charged with a crime? While Republicans steal from the public coffers to pay out big tax breaks to the rich and the rich’s corporations, the need to find funding for the social services we all want—including law enforcement—becomes more desperate and asset forfeiture is seen as a much more attractive option.