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Civil asset forfeiture laws allow the police to seize property without due process and with little oversight. With a formula like that, what could possibly go wrong?
In Morristown, Tennessee, police seized cars and demanded cash, which a police sergeant allegedly kept for himself — $6,000 in all, a state Comptroller’s report says. Why Morristown officers seized the cars in the first place is unclear.
Tennessee Department of Safety ordered now former police Sgt. Michael Hurt to return those vehicles to the original owners, according to state Comptroller Justin Wilson’s report, released Wednesday. Hurt abused his authority, the report says.
“Frequently, vehicle owners were required to pay the department a cash settlement as well as towing and storage fees. These payments were collected by Sgt. Hurt,” the report said.
Hurt, the report went on, “altered records, failed to record or receipt the majority of the cash and made a false entry in police department records in an apparent attempt to conceal his activities.”
There have been countless instances of civil asset forfeiture gone awry in the news recently, but the abuses of the system are nothing new. The time for civil asset forfeiture reform is now, because the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” matters.