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>> The US Justice Department, on Wednesday, promoting a controversial crime fighting tactic, that critics say police abuse. Taking cash and belongings away from suspects, guilty or not. But, police say the tactic, called Civil Action forfeiture, is vital to their mission. Civil Asset Forfeiture is a key to That helps law enforcement defund organized crime.
Takes back ill gotten gains from them and prevent new crimes from being committed, and weakens the criminals and their their cartels.>> The policy, which is law in several states across the U.S. was intended to battle organized crime, by denying criminals the profits of their ill gotten gains.
It makes it easy for police to confiscate and keep money and property, even if a case never goes to trial. Reuters correspondent Julia Edwards Ainsley, is at the Justice Department.>> A lot of critics of this policy say that it really turns local law enforcement into a treasure hunt.
Where police are not necessarily looking for hardened criminals, but for people with large amounts of cash. A lot of times this can be lower-level people involved in a drug ring, that are simply funneling money from one place to another. Or it could be people who have their assets seized, and are never convicted of crimes.
They really don't have an easy way to get that money back, if the government can say that there was a probable cause.>> A federal program further encouraged the practice, with agencies such as the DEA, turning over 80% of assets seized to local law enforcement. The Obama Administration ended that federal program, as part of a package of criminal justice reforms.
But it's a new day in Washington.>> Earlier this year, local police met with President Trump at the White House and complained that without this money, they weren't able to stop drug trafficking. In other words, criminals who were getting money illegally, were being able to keep that money and keep fueling their criminal acts.
Of course this is also a problem for local police, who want to use that money to buy things like police cars, and body cameras, and bullet proof vests, and other things that they think are essential for their day to day work.>> The federal program will apply even in states that have rejected civil asset forfeiture laws, to the delight of many local police departments.