Thursday, June 14, 2018

A terrible idea

When the then-Labour government first advocated American-style asset forfeiture laws way back in 2004, I highlighted the danger that they would begin to see it as a way of raising revenue - effectively incentivising police to make dubious seizures in order to meet revenue targets. And sadly, that's exactly what the government is doing:

A new police target aiming to seize $500 million from gangs may only serve to further marginalise a hard-to-reach community, those on the inside say.

A Cabinet paper seen by Stuff shows Police Minister Stuart Nash and Police Commissioner Mike Bush have set four new "high-level outcome targets", while also retaining most of the previous government's nine performance targets at an operational level.

The targets include $500m in cash and assets seized from gangs and criminals by 2021.

We're not yet in the horrific US situation where police can profit directly from forfeiture, encouraging them to engage in outright banditry or target people so they can seize their homes. But having a government-set target is bad enough, and it will undoubtedly shift enforcement action in order to meet it. So instead of investigating burglaries, they'll be targeting petty drug dealers because they're more likely to have money. Or going after people who enable university cheats so they can seize their $4.6 million...

Police enforcement should be based on the severity of the crime, not the profit motive. Nash's asset forfeiture target is a terrible idea, and it needs to be reversed.