When it comes to finding the money to do things like traffic enforcement, criminal investigations, and all the other things that make up standard police operations, law enforcement agencies have been in quite a pickle lately.
Even before the crash of 2008, tax revenues were decreasing, as were federal grants to local law enforcement for things like hiring and body armor.
Civil forfeiture, the practice of law enforcement agencies seizing money and property from persons suspected of crimes, became a way for many agencies to bridge the gap between the public safety budget and the public safety mission.
The problem is, there’s very little in terms of unified standards for the practice, and more than a few scandals have erupted involving agencies that seem to be interested in seizing cash and property and little else.
Making matters worse, from a law enforcement funding perspective, is the growing chorus of seizure critics, many of whom are conservative and libertarian.
In Arizona, a recent review of records involving what seized funds from this practice were used for indicates that most of the expenditures were related to police work and crime fighting.
But there are exceptions—like $654,00 spent in a single year by a drug task force for “personal services.”