The Washington Post's "Stop and seize" series marks the latest investigation into abuses of civil forfeiture by law enforcement. This journalistic ground was well plowed before I made small forays into the issue (Dean Barkley's battle for his GMC Envoy, for instance), but the Post states that "unexplored until now is the role of the federal government and the private police trainers in encouraging officers to target cash on the nation’s highways since 9/11."
It's another example of how the security state that mushroomed after Sept. 11, 2001, has gone well beyond counter-terrorism to an assertion of police power over all Americans. Thanks to increased intelligence sharing and police-connected entrepreneurs, American highways have become an ATM machine for law enforcement nationwide.
The series also puts a number on how states benefit from assets seized under federal law through a program called equitable sharing. That's how the Minneapolis police are likely to benefit from the $200,020 seized from a suspected drug dealer, even though charges were dismissed and a state judge ordered the money returned.
In Minnesota alone, according to the Post's analysis, the feds confiscated $12.3 million since 2001, of which $9.1 million went back to the state. A portion was distributed to local agencies that assisted in the forfeitures. The big winners were the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport Police (138 seizures, $897K), the Hennepin County Sheriff (126 seizures, $798K), Saint Paul Police (96 seizures, $455K), Bloomington Police (35 seizures, $449K), Minneapolis Police (46 seizures, $400K) and the Ramsey County Sheriff (19 seizures, $342K).
None of this includes assets seized under Minnesota state law, which totaled $6.9 million last year.