Thursday, April 12, 2012

Who thought this was a good idea? Seriously, who?

Asset forfeiture, I mean? Especially when it was decided that the department conducting the bust got to keep a measure of the dough.

Look, it is a precept in Loss Prevention that, out of any ten employees, one or two are never going to steal from you because they don't steal, and one or two are going to steal because they're just crooks, and, of that six or eight in the middle, the way to keep them from stealing is to do two things:
  1. Make it difficult for them to do so.

  2. Make it hard for them to rationalize that it's not really stealing, because you owe them.
Most people, most employees, most everybody is neither scrupulously ethical nor inherently unethical. Man isn't the rational animal, he's the rationalizing animal, and if he can rationalize that it's okay for him to do wrong because the people he's doing wrong to are in the wrong themselves, he'll do it.

Combine asset forfeiture laws, the War on (Some) Drugs, and the fact that the paper money in circulation is practically all tainted with traces of dope because Americans obey drug laws the way they do speed limits, and you've basically legitimized and incentivized corruption. Good job, Mr. Tough-On-Crime.

(Oh, and as municipal budgets shrink, look for more and more financially-strapped departments to be too busy engaged in fiscally remunerative narcotics enforcement to do much about that guy that broke into your house. I seem to recollect a potential rewriting of forfeiture rules in, I think it was Washington, that caused a police chief to protest that a huge chunk of his department budget came from dope-related seizures. Chief, if we only want X dollars of policing in a given year, that's not your cue to give us X+1 by seizing the difference.)

26 comments:

bluesun said...

And we're back to the "Man is good and perfectible" or the "Man is inherently fallen" that so many arguments on human nature come back to. Plan for the best, or plan for the worst...

Tam said...

bluesun,

"And we're back to the "Man is good and perfectible" or the "Man is inherently fallen""

As it turns out, the average man is pretty much 'meh'.

Tam said...

(...or, if I may be allowed to wax nerdly, the vast majority of people are of either Lawful Neutral or Chaotic Neutral alignment. Good and Evil are minorities.)

TJIC said...

> out of any ten employees, one or two are never going to steal from you because they don't steal, and one or two are going to steal because they're just crooks,

I'm happy to see that you've finally come around to my assertion that something like 80% of cops are criminals.

I suggest that the "80% of all employees steal, given the chance" applies not just to police stealing things, but also to police breaking other laws: "80% of cops will smack around a suspect given a chance", "80% of cops will lie about the law, given a chance", "80% of cops will write false police reports, given a chance".

You agree, yes?

Tam said...

TJIC,

There were two bullet points. You seem to have only read one.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Not to Worry! All Revenue Loses can EASILY be Made Up by using Speed Cameras, funded by "Your Tax Dollars at Work!"

Don't you feel safer knowing that if the Indy POPO issues you Speeding Tickets for doing 37 in a 35 in your Zed Drei, that an Up-to-Date Tactikool Mall Ninja SWAT Team is reading to go at a Moment's Notice to arrest you?

perlhaqr said...

Yeah, but you're not allowed to only want X dollars worth of law enforcement. That's for the people doing the policing to decide.

docjim505 said...

Basic operant conditioning: reward behavior you want, ignore (or punish) behavior that you don't. Perhaps without fully realizing it, we've "incentivized" the police to be thieves. It's really speed traps on steroid: local police need money, so they give out more speeding tickets, even resorting to devious methods to do so ("Why, that speed limit sign is PERFECTLY visible from here. I don't know HOW you couldn't have seen it behind that bush!").

Perhaps if we gave the police bonuses or some other reward for every time they catch a criminal AND HE'S CONVICTED, we might get rather more "catch the guy who broke into my house" and rather less "police kicked in my door and 'impounded' my stuff because they 'suspected' that I was selling dope."

Woodman said...

There is no incentive at all for police to pursue low dollar low visibility crime.

Even without the payout from asset forfeiture why would a police department waste their time trying to catch a burglar? even if they catch him hey won't recover 90% of the property, they won't get the money back, and they'll add another loser to the gen pop. It's a general negative to the bottom line to even try.

Of course, it's only a negative to the bottom line if you are taking the manpower off of revenue generation. Either through servicing high profile crimes, or ticketing and forfeiture.

I wonder how much a private detective would charge to solve a burglary. Would it be worth it to even hire one?

TJIC said...

> There were two bullet points. You seem to have only read one.

I read them both.

1) It's easy for cops to break all sorts of laws.

2) It's apparently easy for cops to rationalize breaking laws, because they're doing it to (a) protect a "good guy", (b) the person on the receiving end of the law-breaking is just some scum-bag.

Which of the bullet points do you think I'm misreading or ignoring?
ed by clippings of cops saving kittens from trees, or whatever.

I sent you an email back on 02 Jan that I haven't heard back on, so let me re-ask:

I will ask that you check out this video of a gang of cops stomping,
kicking, and repeatedly kidney punching a suspect who had given up and was lying face down with his hands behind his head.

http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/13_undercover&id=7936228

I see about eight cops involved.

Now, if there was 1 cop kicking a downed suspect, and 9 other cops
trying to pull that one bad apple off, I'd say, "Yeah, Tam's right -
just 1 bad cop and a bunch of good ones. Call it a 10% violent thug
rage...And heck, this is just one video. Maybe this was one bad crew.
So maybe it's just a 5% thug rate. Or 3%. Or 2%."

So, it seems that the two bullet points fail to prevent an 8-on-1 assault of a defenseless guy.

What am I missing in your two-bullet-point system?

Anonymous said...

It appears that the local DA sets the tone on siezures. Back in PA our old DA started with cash and cars and ended scarfing up estates before the state court told him to give things back.

Here in KY it seems to be a non -issue. I guess single wide trailers and 1995 F-150 don't bring enough to bother with.

Gerry

Tam said...

TJIC,

"Now, if there was 1 cop kicking a downed suspect, and 9 other cops
trying to pull that one bad apple off,
"

How come the college dropout has to point out to the Ivy League grad that just because four out of five people on the planet aren't Chinese, it doesn't mean that the Beijing phone book is full of Smiths and Joneses?

"I sent you an email back on 02 Jan that I haven't heard back on..."

I have mulled that over and decided that, like the existence of God and many other topics, this is something that you and I are just absolutely sure that the other is wrong on.

I hope that we will have the chance to meet face to face when I am in NH here shortly, as this is something I would be happy to talk about face to face and I would truly enjoy meeting you, but that's about the last I'm going to type about it.

Anonymous said...

@ docjim505 ... then at that point you're incentivizing perjury, manufacturing of evidence, etc.

How about we make the consequences for police misconduct AT LEAST equal to the crime they allege someone's committed?

Qualified immunity my ass

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"Who thought this was a good idea?"

The people who stood to benefit from it, of course. Then they sent their lobbyists to Congress to convince them that they could benefit from it, too (by looking "tough on crime").

It's not like they really care about anyone else.

dave said...


Perhaps if we gave the police bonuses or some other reward for every time they catch a criminal AND HE'S CONVICTED, we might get rather more "catch the guy who broke into my house" and rather less "police kicked in my door and 'impounded' my stuff because they 'suspected' that I was selling dope."


No, we'd get more manufactured evidence and testilying, on top of the kicking in of doors and shooting of dogs.

Tam said...

docjim505,

+1 to what Dave said. You can't incentivize convictions under the American political system. While it seems like a good idea at first thought, the potential downsides are too high.

Hand-in-hand with that, you can't punish lack of convictions, or arrests, or tickets, or whatever. Tell a guy "If you don't write some tickets, you're fired," then he's going to go write some by-god tickets, and you can kiss that 10mph grace cushion good-bye.

Pakkinpoppa said...

+1 to Dave and Tam.
In Ohio, troopers supposedly give you 8 mph grace cushion.

I have a lead foot. If I didn't have cruise control, I'd have no license. Fortunately, Honda has theirs activate at 25 mph, so unless I'm in a school zone, I've got it on cruise.

The War on (Some) Drugs is stupid, but I don't see it ending anytime soon, the forfeiture statutes make soooo much money for local agencies.

Armed Texan said...

And we're back to the "Man is good and perfectible" or the "Man is inherently fallen" that so many arguments on human nature come back to.

Either way, more laws are not the answer. If we are perfectible, then we do not need these laws when our own integrity will suffice. If we are inherently fallen, then the best curb for antisocial behavior are the sharp elbows of those closest to the bad actors (also known as shame). People who are rationalizing bad behavior find it far easier to rationalize in the face of some distant bureaucratic authority than the people they have to face every day.

Will said...

@Gerry:

"Here in KY it seems to be a non -issue. I guess single wide trailers and 1995 F-150 don't bring enough to bother with."

That is simply because they don't want to get involved with taking things that require dealing with titles and other paperwork that can be tracked back to them.

The typical amount of theft (seizure) by the cops is under $5k, cash. Mostly because they know that it can cost the person as much to go to court to try to get it back. Most people don't bother.

docjim505 said...

RE: dave and Tam on incentivizing phony convictions.

Excellent point.

Ferret said...

This is an idea I had a while back on the topic of ticketing and asset forfeiture laws. Since there is too much incentive for police to treat citizens as a convenient ATM whenever they need some extra cash, why not structure the law so that the agency seizing the asset or issuing the ticket gets none of the money. Instead, either put it all in the state's general fund or divide it up among the agencies adjacent to that one.

Though it may not completely de-incentivize revenue enhancement activities, maybe the hue and cry from police chiefs everywhere will be enough to make people realize that "it's less about your safety and more about your money".

Sigivald said...

I have little problem with forfeiture as a concept; ill-gotten goods or goods used solely for crime seem like a reasonable thing to forfeit.

I have a big problem with it happening before a trial and conviction of the person involved, however.

Trials of property? No.

Forfeiture before conviction? No.

Forfeiture of proceeds or tools of crime after trial and conviction and the appeals process? Okay.

I mean, if we're willing to lock someone up or even kill them after that process, I figure it's probably safe to also take some of their stuff; the safeguards on the former should if anything be more rigorous.

(I also absolutely agree that the entities involved in the proceedings should never get a share of the proceeds - because the incentives are wicked.)

TJIC said...

> How come the college dropout has to point out to the Ivy League grad that just because four out of five people on the planet aren't Chinese, it doesn't mean that the Beijing phone book is full of Smiths and Joneses?

Before you tire your arm out TOO much wielding that ad-hominem brush, let the record show that I have REPEATEDLY argued against the utility of fancy degrees, have said that the best engineer I ever hired never went to college, and have advised my god-kids not to attend.

Beat me up for my current ideas, but don't condemn me for what I did when I was a teenager.

TJIC said...

> I have mulled that over and decided that, like the existence of God and many other topics, this is something that you and I are just absolutely sure that the other is wrong on.

Fair enough.

I care much less what people around me think about the Deity than I do re what they think about the police.

...for two reasons:

1) their opinions on God don't factor into how much of my money is stolen from me

2) the God question is inherently unresolvable this side of the veil. I [ naively ] think that I can perhaps convince people that most cops are thugs by showing them the daily tidal wave of evidence.

Anyway, find, email truce on the topic [ I swear, I'll try ].

Will said...

It seems to me that asset forfeiture is nothing more than speeding tickets writ large.

The cops know they are stealing the money from citizens, for no good reason. Really. 90+% effort to control something that is the cause of accidents/injuries in the low single digits, IIRC. They do it because it is easy.

In fact, the roads get safer when the cops AREN'T writing tickets. The govt's own statistics show this.

mac said...

Ferret said...
why not structure the law so that the agency seizing the asset or issuing the ticket gets none of the money. Instead, either put it all in the state's general fund or divide it up among the agencies adjacent to that one.


You'll still have a problem. The state or other agencies will tie PD funds to a quota. Kinda like we have with lobbyists now: put money in my reelection campaign now, I'll make sure you get good government lucre after election. The politicians are simply using our money to fund their reelection campaign, once you close the temporal loop.