Posted: 1/10/2003 6:48:12 AM EDT
Posted on 01/10/2003 6:51 AM PST by MrLeRoy
PALM SPRINGS -- It is a common -- and crucial -- tool in the war on drugs, those in law enforcement say.
It’s cash from property seized by agents in drug arrests, money that law enforcement advocates say deters crime and is needed to further their fight.
But the practice has drawn heat from drug-law reformers who say it violates citizens’ rights to due process and has done little to stop drug traffickers.
Police and drug law reformers squared off on the issue at Palm Springs City Council chambers Thursday night in a forum sponsored by the city’s Human Rights Commission.
Police Chief Gary Jeandron said the courts can safeguard citizens’ due process rights and crack down on any abuses by law enforcement.
He also maintained that forfeiture is a vital ingredient to fighting drug trafficking.
"You’re still putting drug dealers in jail," Jeandron said. "If this is a tool to handicap drug dealers, I support that."
The forum came as Palm Springs City Council prepares to decide on whether to dedicate a police officer to the Inland Crackdown Allied Task Force. The council, after tabling the issue twice, is expected to vote at its Wednesday meeting.
INCA, as it is known, is a state effort to investigate major drug traffickers and money launderers in Riverside County.
Palm Springs has participated in the task force for the past nine years.
The group’s member agencies split the profits from seized property.
Law enforcement veterans like panelist Sgt. Dan Rose of the city’s narcotics task force say asset forfeiture is an effective enforcement tool and tout the department’s partnership with INCA.
But others such as Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray still had concerns.
A vocal critic of the war on drugs, Gray said the strategy strips away civil liberties, encourages corruption, targets small-time criminals instead of major dealers and puts unseemly pressure on law enforcement to raise revenue.
"It’s used as a major tool, but it’s also a major trap," Gray said. "We have an institutional corruption. There are institutional abuses in place because money is important. It simply puts the incentives in the wrong place."
Libertarian Susan Marie Weber said the City Council should send a message by voting against membership in the task force.
"This city can make a statement. It can say ‘no.’ Just say ‘no,’" Weber said.
Let's see ... the cops get any money they can take from people arrested on drug charges. Nope, that doesn't provide motivation to arrest as many people as possible, constitution be damned. [rolleyes]
Not to mention the motive to plant evidence.