A cop stealing money

Police officers in America have full authority to take your possessions without due process, even if you’re not being charged with a crime.


The world’s major religions don’t agree on everything, but there is general consensus on certain core principles. Among them: thou shalt not steal.

It’s a fairly straightforward concept: don’t take what’s not yours. It’s one of the first things our parents taught us as children growing up. And civilized society takes stealing seriously; we have a whole host of laws that prohibit theft and prescribe tough punishment for offenders.

But here’s the catch: this fundamental principle of “thou shalt not steal” doesn’t apply to police. As it turns out, police officers have full authority to take your possessions without due process, even if you’re not being charged with a crime. Yes, you read that right. It’s a process called asset forfeiture, and police departments across the country are increasingly coming under fire for abusing it to their own ends. Originally used sparingly to deter criminal activity, instances of asset forfeiture have expanded greatly in recent years – leading many to call for a ban on this “legalized theft” by law enforcement. If you have a moment, check out this informative (and frightening) overview of the issue.

But enough background information. What does this look like in action?

Crooked Cops

The latest case to make headlines involves an officer in the UC Berkeley police department. A now-viral video shows the officer reprimanding a hot dog vendor for operating without a permit. After writing him a ticket, the cop then reaches into the man’s wallet and removes the cash inside. Here’s the video that’s got everybody talking:

Immediate Backlash

So, were the officer’s actions just? According to the letter of the law, yes. But many people didn’t see it that way. Watching the video, it’s hard to suppress the feeling that what you’re witnessing is inherently wrong. Here you have a hardworking individual just trying to make a few bucks selling hotdogs to college kids. True, he didn’t have a permit to do so. Perhaps a citation was in order. But to open up his wallet and confiscate the money inside? What honorable person – let alone an officer of the law – would do such a thing?

Fortunately, there is a bright spot in all of this. After the video went viral, the community came together and rallied around the hot dog vendor. A GoFundMe page set up in his name has raised an astounding $80,000 (and counting). Looks like the police officer won’t be having the last laugh, at least not in this case.

Civil asset forfeiture statisticsThe Future of Forfeiture

The fact remains that every day countless innocent citizens are stopped by police and have legally-earned money taken from them. Because of the long and complex legal battle required to get one’s assets back, many never see their money returned, or only a fraction of the original amount after being forced to hire a lawyer. And the problem is only getting worse. In 2014, the total amount of money confiscated by police exceeded the amount stolen in burglaries nationwide.

Should Americans be Outraged?

Although civil asset forfeiture has been around for decades, the continued expansion of the practice warrants serious concern. While it may be a useful tool against organized crime, it also incentivizes police misconduct. Abuse is rampant, and it’s nearly impossible for the innocent people affected to get justice. If we want to uphold the principle of “thou shalt not steal”, then perhaps our laws should reflect that ideal.

 

41 comments

  1. Jess Martin says:

    Outrageous. Innocent until convicted by a court.

    1. Dr. Rev Stacy Pifher says:

      No longer applies! Unofficially guilty until proven innocent. That’s why a high number if innocent people is incarcerated

    2. Rev paul collins says:

      Agreed this is way over the line

  2. Rev.Hoagie says:

    I’ve been complaining about this outrageous forfeiture nonsense for years. I think it began with that horrible RICO Act to “catch the Mafia”. Even then it is wrong. But after the Mob was busted all they did was “expand” the law. Oh, it was for a noble cause-drug interdiction. See, if they steal the drug dealers assets they have nothing to pay lawyers to defend themselves so Bingo! and instant conviction and they get to keep the cash, real estate, jewelry and cars.

    Nobody in a free society should be liable to have their property seized until and unless proven guilty of a crime in court. And that seizure should be commensurate with the crime, no more no less.

    1. John Owens says:

      Exactly, Hoagie.

  3. shiningwolf9 says:

    Keep spreading the word, speak or write about it, speak or write to your state representative, start rallies/marches….

    1. JOHN MAHER says:

      like you only heard about this now, I know of it for 75 years,what about MURDER, SHOOTINGS, BEATINGS, KEEP tRUMP in OFFICE it WILL GET WORSE, POLICE and POLITITIONS the NEW MAFIA, GANGs, ORGANIZED CRIME, DUMP the IGNORAMUS COWARD CRIMINAL TRAITOR tRUMP,GOD is GREAT so is the US of A

      1. Clay says:

        John – In your opinion, is there ANYTHING wrong in this country that is NOT Donald Trump’s fault? Is there any subject you aren’t versed in? Personally, I’m getting tired of your BS.

        1. shiningwolf9 says:

          Please, name one thing, which others can confirm, that trumpid (equal to stupid) has done right, or helped the lower classes?

        2. JOHN MAHER says:

          CLAY if UR TIRED SHUT UP and GO to SLEEP, FOREVER !!! DUMP the IGNORAMUS COWARD CRIMINAL TRAITOR ORANGUtRUMP, ACTUALLY LAY BESIDE YOUR MASTER, GOD is GREAT so is the US of A,……ORANGUtRUMP is MAKING MONKEYs of ALL WHO VOTED for HIM and HIS BASE WELL they ARE ALREADY in that CATEGORY !!!

      2. shiningwolf9 says:

        I am 56, you moron, no this is not the first time I have heard of this. Just telling people to really rise up, say something, do something. Have you ever done anything other than run your mouth about something or someone you do not know?

      3. Reverend Krystina S. says:

        I agree that things are going backwards with trump in office. We citizens are being given the shaft, with an expansion of police powers, such as confiscation of property, and a reduction in the rights of people to equal treatment under the law.

        1. John Owens says:

          That’s ridiculous. It has nothing to do with Trump. It began under LBJ and has continued ever since, including the last 8 years. Don’t be blinded by partisanship.

  4. John Owens says:

    This is an automatic and unintended consequence of big government, even though it happens on a local level. The locals learned it by copying the FBI. This is like the modern interpretation of Imminent Domain, where they can condemn your property so they can put in a Walmart or strip mall and get more tax money. Totally unjust and unjustifiable. The Constitution and Bill of Rights (which was written to LIMIT GOVERNMENT, not rights of citizens) actually prohibits this in the section on search and seizure. The only reason any local or state government within the U.S. gets away with it, is because of crooked officials in the first place.

    1. Reverend Krystina S. says:

      Unfortunately, Eminent Domain has been expanded. Now, it is not only for “public good,” such as roads, but for PRIVATE GAIN, such as the businesses to which you refer–and often, these businesses are given incentives, breaks, and do NOT pay taxes!!! Don’t forget that when a cop takes your money, they are NOT doing it legally– they are NOT turning it into the police department– but they are keeping it for themselves, individually, which is ILLEGAL.

      1. John Owens says:

        I understand that. Our constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure are basically non-existent any more. You know, when the gay marriage thing was making so much news, everybody kept harping on “equal protection under the law”. Well, that’s all BS. Police carry weapons, and have access to body armor and a LOT of weapons which we citizens cannot legally possess. They also break the speed limit, mount different items on their dashboards, and commit crimes and violence and are very seldom prosecuted. Also, if a police officer says someone did something, the judges automatically believe the police officer. Politicians are entitled to protective details. I’m not entitled to a protective detail. I think people who take an oath in order to have a job in public service should be shot if convicted of violating that oath, but that’s just me. I think if you do away with most corruption at the government level, it will trickle down and do away with most crime on every level.

  5. Miranda Allison Young says:

    This is outrageous! We need to talk to our Congressional Representatives and Senators and ask them to sponsor a bill in Congress banning this. It should never have become a law and we need to get it removed from our statutes nationwide.

  6. paulg78 says:

    Yes, Americans should be outraged at this clear injustice.

  7. James says:

    Just stand your ground and be right. If everyone would do that then the evil people would see it wouldn’t be worth the fight. But everyone had to do it. The majority still rules here in America. No matter what anyone says.

    1. Reverend Krystina S. says:

      I don’t think you’re right. POWER rules in America. Those with power (Financial, Political, Judicial, Law Enforcement…) RULE. The rest of us have no ability to be heard.

      1. John Owens says:

        I think James is saying if large numbers of us oppose power intelligently, we will HAVE power.

        1. JOHN MAHER says:

          TA,TA,TA,TA, WELL Mr. OWENS SOMETHING WE CAN AGREE ON, DUMP the IGNORAMUS COWARD CCRIMINAL TRAITOR ORANGUtRUMP, POWER to the PEOPLE, GOD is GREAT so is the US of A

          1. John Owens says:

            Oh, no!

  8. Tom says:

    Yes, stealing is wrong…but the article is a limited, simplistic summary that is incomplete, and has inaccuracies…it is ridiculous to use a couple of examples to indict hundreds of thousands of police all over the country…the article is a good example of demagoguery, and encourages people to give vent, rather than being an intelligent dissertation…it is sad that the ULC sees this as a sound presentation of an issue…to be useful, the article should explain that asset seizure only happens in a small number of instances; that there have to be bases for the seizures; that usually it is the prosecutor’s office, and not the police, that does the seizing; that the liquidation of the assets goes to a public use; etc…whoever wrote the article either has an “axe to grind”, or needs to study the subject much more expensively…Tom

  9. Tom says:

    Once again i remind ULC about not censoring…

  10. Tom says:

    In my original response, i closed with the word “expensively”, which should have be “extensively”…Tom

  11. Re. Nancy Willingham says:

    Since the officers don’t personally keep the money, and since the asset forfeiture laws are part of their sworn duty, I don’t think the correct word is “steal.” the ten commandments don’t say, “Thou shalt not legislate unfair forfeiture laws.” That said, these laws should be amended so that only the ill-gotten gains of criminals are confiscated and the procedures for innocent persons to get their possessions or money back should be free and quick. It is the responsibility of the voters to make their will known to their representatives so that the legislatures on the state and federal levels correct this problem.
    On the other hand, having been involved in the criminal justice system for over 40 years, I can tell you that law enforcement officers do often steal from people they arrest, usually drug dealers and usually smaller amounts, whatever cash is in their wallets. That IS sealing. The ten commandments don’t say, “You shall not steal form good, law abiding citizens.” It simply says not to steal, period. In the case of crooked cops, even more harm is done, because respect for the law in diminished in lower socioeconomic communities.

  12. Bruce says:

    As with most things, the devil is in the details. I think that clearly anyone cited for, or charged with, a civil violation should not be subject to seizure or forfeiture of property. However, someone arrested for or charged with a felony should at least be subject to a court directed seizure or freezing of assets pending adjudication of the charges. As in most search and seizure issues, the courts should be issuing the directives under well established judicial precedent.

  13. Brad jones says:

    Unjustified shootings, trampling of Constitutional rights, cover up by otherwise good cops, blatant theft- too many bad apples are tarnishing the police image

  14. Todd says:

    As a religious man are you willing to convict all people of one race, creed, belief or even career choice based one one persons actions. Don’t be a hipocrit and blame all police because of the actions of one. Don’t blame all black, white, hispanic, asian, middle eastern or any other ethnicity because of the actions of one. If you want racism and profiling to stop you have to start with yourself. Peace does not occur by hating.

  15. Todd says:

    Furthermore I am disappointed in this website. It seems to be one sided and overly opinionated. Articles made public should include all the facts from both sides so that readers can make an intelligent decision. Although in this day and age of media that is rarely done since news and media is now just another cheap uneducational realty show.

    1. John Owens says:

      We’re trying to rectify that, Todd. One side was trying to silence the other side by calling them trolls and ignorant and all that, but we kept talking and reasoning and now have more who are willing to speak. You just have to try to present with reasoning and reasonableness. Don’t let the bad guys or morons win.

      1. Bernard Moleman says:

        Censorship exists EVERYWHERE. I was banned from riding the bus SIMPLY for expressing my opinion to ignorant liberals who wouldn’t listen to me. I will not be silenced for my beliefs ANY LONGER.

        1. JOHN MAHER says:

          HEY MOLE MAN maybe you were to FULL of SHYTE to RIDE the BUS AFTER DIGGING ALL those HOLES U MOLES DIG…. DUMP the ORANGUtRUMP !!!

        2. John Owens says:

          Pretty strong evidence that liberals are the real fascists, and for all their lies about diversity, they cannot STAND diversity of opinion. That’s why I call them Daleks, after the robots in Dr. Who. They all think the same, talk the same because they are all programmed from the same source.

      2. JOHN MAHER says:

        BEEN TELLING U THAT FOREVER JOHN OWENS, HELLO !!! DUMP the ORANGUtRUMP !!!

  16. Alton says:

    What people don’t seem to understand is that The confiscated money was made by an illegal hot dog stand in this case. Illegal stand because he did NOT have a food vending permit. Food vendors need a permit to make sure they are preparing the food they are selling properly so no one gets sick. If they would’ve only given an illegal stand a citation for, let’s say $100, and not confiscate his cash and he makes $800 selling hot dogs from an illegal stand he still pulls in a $700 profit where other stands have to follow the rules. It all boils down to legal and illegal, which people just don’t seem to understand now days.

    1. JOHN MAHER says:

      HEY ALTON YOU MUST HAVE GRADUATED the HARVARD LAW SCHOOL of THIEVES, DUMP the ORANGUtRUMP.

  17. Bill Fox says:

    The policeman is not stealing the money for his own personal use. Forfeiture is a policy in many states, that was originally aimed at drug cartels. I’m a due process, 4th Amendment supporter, but states with the power to take property without cause, aren’t going to give up that right until it is painful. I don’t believe anyone should forfeit anything until they are convicted in a court of law. Fines, in many cases, are more effective than forfeiture.

  18. GuyGeorge Grondeaux says:

    I am speechless.

    1. JOHN MAHER says:

      DOUBLEF..K..GSTANDARD FRENCHIE, the KOP is WRONG, BADGE in this COUNTRY HAS BECOME LAW and NOT the LAW…. DUMP the ORAGUtRUMP

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