The Asset Forfeiture Police Station Shows Why Taxpayers Allow It

Richland, Mississippi, sports a new asset forfeiture police station and demonstrates why it is tolerated.

I remember when I was a young child watching a lot of animal shows. They would often show a predator—typically some kind of big cat like a lion or cheetah—sneak up on a heard of grazing herbivores like antelopes, deer, or cattle of some kind. When they charged, the grazers scattered and fled. Usually, the grazers then went a little distance away, calmed down, and started grazing again.

It was business as usual. Someone else had been eaten and the predators would be busy eating and then have full stomachs for awhile.

This seems to be the way it is. If you just pick off a few the survivors won’t be too concerned for too long.

And there is something else, when we are talking about taxpayers. Not only do they feel that occasional predations are someone else’s problem, but they actually think they benefit from their victimization.

Consider this story from about an asset forfeiture police station: “Richland’s $4.1 million police station funded by civil forfeiture.”

The Mississippi city of Richland has a new $4.1 million police station, a top-level training center and a fleet of black-and-white Dodge Charger police cars.

All of it was paid for through civil forfeitures of property and cash seized during traffic stops of what police say were suspected drug runners on Interstate 20.

Civil libertarians question the constitutionality of civil forfeiture, which has become a key part of revenue for state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide. Under the laws of many states, citizens can be deprived of their property or even cash if police merely suspect the owners to be involved in criminal activity.

Mayor Mark Scarborough and police chief WR “Russel” James of Richland — population 7,033 and located south of Jackson on I-20 in Rankin County — say they’re not only giving city taxpayers a bargain, but they’re also helping do their part to stem the heavy drug trade that travels between Texas and Atlanta on I-20, which eventually trickles down to smaller cities like theirs.

So, as far as we know, none of these people were ever brought to trial. They don’t have to be. The police simply get to take it.

And this is all a great “bargain” for the taxpayers. The city gets a wonderful new building that looks real nice. The cops with the city name on their car doors are now driving much newer vehicles. It seems glorious for the town. Perhaps they even used local contractors for the construction of the police station and the training center.

So here is my question for the people of Richland: Have you thought about the future? I realize that questions of Constitutional legality don’t interest everyone, but have you considered what the consequences might be? You know your police station has a lot of great stuff and the police know it too. And they know that your taxes really aren’t funding much anymore. They don’t owe their vehicles or their offices to you; they owe it to what they can grab without having to bother with due process.

So what happens when you have an organization trained to better itself by taking what they can find on the road? What kind of people develop over the next decade or two practicing that method of fundraising?

I think it looks like the kind of place you wouldn’t want your children to have to live in and raise children in. But it is the place you are making for them.