Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Judge says APD has to start documenting property seizures

Posted By on Wed, Jun 15, 2011 at 4:12 PM

Yesterday, the Atlanta Police Department was brought to court for flouting federal law by failing to itemize and report the property it seizes from citizens.

The AJC reports that Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford issued a decree requiring both the Fulton County Police Department and the Fulton County Sheriff's Office to begin documenting its civil seizures, and that Atlanta will "enter into a similar decree within a month."

The APD — as well as the two Fulton County agencies — were sued by the Institute for Justice, a legal watchdog group that studied Georgia law enforcement's reporting procedures. The state's civil forfeiture law allows police to seize any property — money, cars, homes, etc. — they think might be connected to criminal activity, even if the property owner isn't convicted of a crime (to reclaim property, an individual must prove to a court that it wasn't acquired illegally). But, as a condition, law enforcement agencies also have to keep track of and make available for public review what they're seizing, how much it's worth and what the proceeds are being used for. Only one agency in the state — the Savannah-Chatham Police Department — was reporting its seizures as required by law.

The most recent numbers acquired by the IJ indicate that between 1993 and 2003, the APD averaged $3,795,341-per-year in proceeds from civil seizures, over a million dollars more than the next most profitable agency (Cobb County Sheriff's Office).

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