Police departments profit from drug busts

COLUMBUS, Ohio (U-WIRE) — The reckless drive of politicians and the ignorant masses to eradicate drugs from our society has given birth to appalling laws that one would only expect to find in repressive totalitarian regimes. In what many constitutional scholars are calling the “drug exception” to the Bill of Rights, our criminal system has embarked on a dangerous path toward utilizing Gestapo tactics in order to win the “war on drugs.”
The most heinous of these measures are probably the forfeiture laws. As repugnant as it may sound, when drugs are allegedly involved in a crime, the government has the right to permanently seize any and all of your property, purely on the presumption of guilt. This can occur regardless of your actual guilt or knowledge of the situation. If cocaine residue is found on your car compliments of your shady neighbors, tough luck, the government can take it. Authorities are even allowed to confiscate your valuables if they suspect that they might be used in a drug related crime. Furthermore, if you are charged and then acquitted of a drug related crime, the authorities are often under no obligation to return your belongings. This poison on our understanding of justice is self-perpetuating.
Police departments that were once strapped for cash are now profiting handsomely from drug seizure proceeds. With seizure quotas popping up across the country and several departments existing entirely on seized revenue, the drive to end the loathsome practice is low. Innocent individuals are having their savings ripped away from them by the state.
Entrepreneurs are losing their businesses due to the sins of their co-workers. And the average Joe is getting screwed out of everything he owns because of the drug offense some stranger decides to engage in on his property. These practices are increasing in frequency and destroying people’s lives, sometimes quite literally. Driven by departmental revenue interests, not criminal concerns, the Los Angeles Country Sheriff’s Department paid a visit to Donald Scott and his family in the fall of 1992. The Scotts lived on a $5 million, 200-acre ranch in Malibu.
There were rumors of marijuana plants on his property and although extensive air surveillance didn’t find any evidence to that effect, the officers decided to pursue the matter. Late one evening Mr. Scott was jarred by the screams of his wife and the breaking down of his door. Fearing that he was being robbed, he took his gun to the origin of the clamor to see what was going on.
Mrs. Scott watched in horror as her husband was gunned down by the military-style police squad sent in to find the elusive drugs. No traces of marijuana or any sort of drug paraphernalia were ever found. Mrs. Scott got to keep her house.
The truly frightening aspect of these assaults on the American people and their property is that so little attention is being paid to them by the media and the populace as a whole. The price of liberty truly is eternal vigilance. Indifference toward this critical issue could be catastrophic to this country and the freedoms that it was founded on. As the millennium draws to a close we find ourselves at a monumental apex in American history. Do we fight to ensure that future generations will be afforded the basic tenets of freedom that were outlined by our founding fathers? Or do we idly stand by while the tree of liberty is uprooted and toppled, crushing the hopes and values of our young nation?
The future is watching. Let’s act accordingly.
Robert Nekervis’ column originally appeared in Friday’s Ohio State University Lantern.