End Policing for Profit NOW: Support SB 443

Support SB 443

DPA Report: 8 of top 10 California cities hit hardest by civil asset forfeiture.

Thanks to the tireless advocacy of LA’s Senator Holly Mitchell, the California legislature may soon act to curb an abuse that has allowed law enforcement agencies in California to pocket around $80 million each year in assets taken from residents without any form of due process at all. The measure comes up for a crucial vote in the Assembly within the next two weeks.

Although police still like to claim that asset forfeiture is a needed tool for fighting “drug kingpins,” the evidence shows that it is used most often against small fry.

This abusive practice, going back three decades, is called civil asset forfeiture. Although police still like to claim that asset forfeiture is a needed tool for fighting “drug kingpins,” the evidence shows that it is used most often against small fry: against law-abiding low-income people, often people of color, who don’t have bank accounts and who must use cash for major transactions. Many of the people targeted for asset forfeiture are undocumented. The amount taken averages just $5,000: hardly what anyone would considered a “kingpin”-level haul but enough to devastate a low-income household when it is simply taken by the cops with no possibility of recovery.

Our friends at the Drug Policy Alliance, which  published an eye-popping major report on asset forfeiture in California, warn that law enforcement is turning up the heat on our legislators, pleading with lawmakers to let them keep scooping up other people’s property with total impunity. Their lobbyists in Sacramento have been spreading the lie that police agencies will lose all of their federal funding if they stop participating in an “equitable sharing” asset forfeiture program that is administered by the U.S. Department of Justice.

peter-laarman-15The Assembly vote will be close. We strongly urge each of you to contact your Assembly member right now–today—to urge his or her support for SB 443 when it comes to the floor for a vote. Click here to find the contact information for your representative in the California Assembly. Or you can use this automatic ACLU messaging tool. And thanks for helping to end a disgraceful violation of the basic legal principle, “innocent until proven guilty.”

Peter Laarman

About Peter Laarman

Rev. Peter Laarman serves on the Justice Not Jails steering committee. He formerly directed Progressive Christians Uniting, the LA-based network of activist individuals and congregations that first launched Justice Not Jails in 2012 as a multifaith initiative. He served as the senior minister of New York’s Judson Memorial Church from 1994 to 2004. Ordained in the United Church of Christ, Peter spent 15 years as a labor movement strategist and communications specialist prior to training for ministry.