Police department policies on asset forfeitures may encourage “policing for profit,” contend Profs. John Worrall and Tomislav Kovandzic of the University of Texas at Dallas. In a study published in the journal Criminology & Public Policy, the authors found that state policies allowing police departments to keep items seized during arrests do not result in more asset forfeitures, but states frequently team up with federal agencies to avoid restrictions and obtain more of the forfeited proceeds. The study is not available online.
Asset forfeiture has long been criticized for providing police with self-serving financial incentives to make arrests, said commentator Jerome Skolnick of the New York University School of Law in the journal. He explains that the problem is not that the police seize money, drugs, and guns associated with unlawful activity, but that these seizures occur on arrest rather than conviction; the vast majority of people whose assets are seized by police are never prosecuted for a crime. There may be some positive aspects of forfeitures that are overlooked, says Prof. Eric Baumer of Florida State University. He cites the increased prices of illegal drugs in areas that allow police to retain the proceeds of asset forfeitures, which indicates a decrease in supply.