Local law enforcement agencies no longer are reaping rewards from the controversial federal program that allows police to take money and property from individuals and keep up to 80 percent of it even if those individuals are never charged with any crime. As reported here earlier, the U.S. Justice Department suspended payments from the “equitable sharing” program that normally paid out 80 percent of those funds collected to local agencies, citing congressional budget cuts. The Cincinnati Enquirer says the move prompted cheers from those trying to eliminate or reform such seizures and forfeitures, with some saying the action could reduce the number of officers who perform such seizures. It has also raised major concern among those local agencies and the law enforcement community nationwide about the drop in potential funding.
“We use those funds for outside training to make sure we have a well-trained and professional police force,” said Cincinnati Police Capt. Paul Neudigate, who oversees the 22 local officers who are assigned to various federal task forces throughout the region. “Now we’re going to have to reevaluate those training dollars and how we might be able to continue those programs.” Yet advocates for reform say such sentiment shows how police view the forfeiture and sharing program as a way to raise funds, not stop crime. “Law enforcement has become addicted to chasing cash as opposed to chasing criminals,” said Lee McGrath of the Institute of Justice, a Washington-based nonprofit that advocates for judicial reform. “And now that the federal government has a cash flow problem, the ripple effect will be down to the local police chief level as they will be looking at possible implications for their staffing, equipment needs or training.