Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) clashed with a national law enforcement organization yesterday during a hearing about proposed curbs to police power to seize property without proving a crime has occurred, the Washington Post reports. Grassley is pushing to reform federal civil-asset forfeiture laws that have enabled local and state police to take billions of dollars from people without filing charges or warrants. Fraternal Order of Police president Chuck Canterbury said the proposal would deprive local and state departments of “hundreds of millions” in funding needed to fight crime and terror.
Grassley disagreed, saying civil-asset forfeiture laws have created a “perverse incentive” for police to cut corners and seize cash and property without clear evidence of a crime. The police group’s position “dismisses the need for real reform and demonstrates the absurdity of a system of justice in which some in law enforcement appear to value funding their own operations over protecting civil rights,” Grassley said. The hearing is part of a broad push to reform civil-asset forfeiture laws. The Post has reported that since 2001, local and state police across the nation have seized $2.5 billion in cash from 62,000 people, without filing warrants or criminal charges. Some property owners had to fight for a year or more to get their money back.