Police Forces Keep the Take

The ``loot'' that's coming back to police forces all over the nation has
redefined law-enforcement success. It now has a dollar sign in front of

For nearly eighteen months, undercover Arizona State Troopers worked as
drug couriers driving nearly 13 tons of marijuana from the Mexican
border to stash houses around Tucson. They hoped to catch the Mexican
suppliers and distributors on the American side before the dope got on
the streets. // But they overestimated their ability to control the
distribution. Almost every ounce was sold the minute they dropped it at
the houses. // Even though the troopers were responsible for tons of
drugs getting loose in Tucson, the man who supervised the setup still
believes it was worthwhile. It was ``a success from a cost-benefit
standpoint,'' says former assistant attorney-general John Davis. His
reasoning: It netted 20 arrests and at least $3 million for the state
forfeiture fund.

``That kind of thinking is what frightens me,'' says Steve Sherick, a
Tucson attorney. ``The government's thirst for dollars is overcoming any
long-range view of what it is supposed to be doing, which is fighting
crime.'' // George Terwilliger III, associate deputy attorney general in
charge of the U.S. Justice Department's program emphasizes that
forfeiture does fight crime, and ``we're not at all apologetic about the
fact that we do benefit (financially) from it.'' // In fact, Terwilliger
wrote about how the forfeiture program financially benefits police
departments in the 1991 Police Buyer's Guide of Police Chief Magazine.

Between 1986 and 1990, the U.S. Justice Department generated $1.5
billion from forfeiture and estimates that it will take in $500 million
this year, five times the amount it collected in 1986. // District
attorney's offices throughout Pennsylvania handled $4.5 million in
forfeitures last year; Allegheny County (ED: Pgh is in Allegheny County)
$218,000, and the city of Pittsburgh, $191,000 -- up from $9,000 four
years ago. // Forfeiture pads the smallest towns coffers. In Lexana,
Kan, a Kansas City suburb of 29,000, ``we've got about $250,000 moving
in court right now,'' says narcotic detective Don Crohn. // Despite the
huge amounts flowing to police departments, there are few public
accounting procedures. Police who get a cut of the federal forfeiture
funds must sign a form saying merely they will use it for ``law
enforcement purposes.'' // To Philadelphia police that meant new air
conditioning. In Warren County, N.J., it meant use of a forfeited yellow
Corvette for the chief assistant prosecutor. //

{At this point in the article there is a picture of three people  in
an empty apartment, with the following caption:

     Judy Mulford, 31, and her 13-year old twins, Chris, left, and
     Jason, are down to essentials in their Lake Park, Fla., home,
     which the government took in 1989 after claiming her husband,
     Joseph, stored cocaine there. Neither parent has been
     criminally charged, but in April a forfeiture jury said Mrs.
     Mulford must forfeit the house she bought herself with an
     insurance settlement. The Mulfords have divorced, and she has
     sold most of her belongings to cover legal bills. She's asked
     for a new trial and lives in the near-empty house pending a
     decision. }

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