Sessions Creates DOJ Asset Forfeiture Watchdog

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions is setting up a unit to oversee a policy he reinstated to help state and local police take cash and property from people suspected of a crime, even if they have not been charged, reports the Washington Post. Sessions came under fire from members of Congress when he announced the policy in July because of concerns about abuse in earlier incarnations of the asset forfeiture program. Sessions directed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to hire a director to review all aspects of the department’s policy and take action if problems arise. “The asset forfeiture program has proven to be extremely valuable to law enforcement in our country, but it has received certain criticisms,” Sessions wrote.

Sessions reversed an order by Attorney General Eric Holder to stop the program. Two years ago, Holder barred state and local police from using federal law to seize cash and other property without criminal charges or warrants. Since 2008, thousands of police agencies made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under the program, which allowed local and state police to make seizures and then share the proceeds with federal agencies. Sessions reauthorized federal “adoption” of assets that state and local police seize when the alleged conduct that led to the seizures appears to violate federal law. “It’s nice to see at least some acknowledgment that civil forfeiture is in need of increased oversight, but the changes really don’t go far enough and the core problem still remains,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). “Americans are still going to have their property taken from them, without due process, at record rates.”

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