If it didn’t involve police and the holy war on drugs, Massachusetts conservatives would be outraged over the multi-million dollar slush funds, seized from private citizens in a mockery of due process, that some politicians and heads of municipal departments can use, without transparency or oversight, for pet projects and favored constituents.
The civil forfeiture system in Massachusetts generated $33 million for district attorneys and local police forces over three years, an investigation by the Daily News has found. And that’s not counting the millions seized by the feds, including Carmen Ortiz, who has taken prosecutorial overreach to new heights. Her attempt to seize a Tewksbury motel from its elderly owners just because a few drug deals took place there earned a rare judicial slap-down.
As I argue in an editorial today, the civil forfeiture system is a mess on constitutional, political and practical grounds. Reform is overdue, and it should begin by taking decisions over property seizures away from the people who would receive and spend the money.