Famine entails side effects such as disease and violence, which kill as many people as does starvation.
Austerity is engineered famine. Its side effects include rampant theft by police officers, whose banditry is euphemistically called “civil forfeiture.”
As the austerity-famine rages, law enforcement agents nationwide are now robbing people of their money, valuables, vehicles, and property without arresting their victims, or charging them with any wrongdoing. This theft-by-police occurs at the federal, state, county, and municipal levels.
It is called “civil forfeiture” for a reason. With criminal forfeiture, you must be convicted before the cops can rob you. With “civil forfeiture” you don’t have to be convicted or even charged with any crime. Moreover in criminal court you must be found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In civil court the cops need only show by a “preponderance of the evidence,” or “more likely than not,” that your cash and property were the proceeds of wrongdoing.
The following is an example, although in this case the victim was actually charged with a crime (but acquitted). In June 2012, Robert Pardee was driving through Powesheik County, Iowa on I-80, when an Iowa State trooper pulled over Mr. Pardee for a non-working taillight. During the stop, the state trooper saw $33,100 in cash in Mr. Pardee’s car and arrested him for possessing a “small amount of marijuana” (which the cop planted in the car). In Iowa, first-time offenders can face up to six months in jail and/or $1,000 in fines.
One year later, a district court found Mr. Pardee innocent, but ruled that the cops could keep the $33,100 they stole from him. Despite Pardee’s acquittal, the district court and then the Iowa Court of Appeals said the cops could keep the money. Furthermore the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled that cops could pull over anyone with an out-of-state license plate, just for being from out of state. According to a report by the Des Moines Register, Iowa State troopers issued almost as many traffic citations to cars with California license plates as they did to Iowa drivers.
The roving bands of cop-bandits are called “interdiction teams.” Between 2011 and 2013, Iowa State Patrol bandits robbed their victims of $7 million in cash.
In 1986 alone, the U.S. Justice Department “forfeiture fund” had $94 million stolen from victims. By 2010 the “forfeiture fund” had over $1 billion, all of it taken from people.
That’s at the federal level. How much money the states, counties, and municipalities have stolen is unknown, since they don’t even keep track of what they rob, let alone publish it.
Police banditry is allowed in 42 of the USA’s 50 states at all levels. And because the theft is allowed, the cops have an extreme profit-incentive to constantly increase their theft. It is now open season on motorists.
The piracy began in June 1971 when President Nixon’s “War on Drugs” began to use police theft as an instrument of “law enforcement” (i.e. enforcement of the social structure of upper, middle, and lower classes). From then on, when it came to proving that someone’s property wasn’t being used for criminal purposes, the burden of proof was on the owner, not the police. The police were allowed to steal whatever they liked and declare that the stolen items were used to further a crime. The rightful owner had to somehow prove that the allegation was false – something that can be extremely difficult to do.
At first the cops had to hand over their stolen booty to the court system. But in 1984, under President Ronald Reagan, the Comprehensive Crime Control Act said that cops could keep most or all of what they steal. This was called “equitable sharing.” Ironically the federal cops (FBI, customs officers, U.S. Marshals, etc.) still had to give half of their stolen loot to the U.S. government, which has no need for extra money.
Most of the police banditry happened at the federal level until 2011, when Washington politicians adopted austerity mania. That caused police theft to become a nationwide epidemic.
Statistically the police bandits tend to prey on low-income people of color, or on anyone else who looks like he does not have the means or the will to fight the cops in court. This is in keeping with the animal nature of law enforcement people, all of whom ultimately work for the rich, and who attack the weakest victims first. The very people who are supposed to enforce the law are the ones who profit from breaking it.
On 27 April 2015, Loretta Lynch replaced Eric Holder as U.S. Attorney General. Ms. Lynch supports police theft, and has boasted that as a prosecuting attorney, she “has used civil asset forfeiture in more than 120 cases, raking in some $113 million for federal and local coffers.” She calls police banditry a “wonderful tool.”
Bottom line: when we support any form of cruelty against anyone, including support for federal budget austerity (i.e. deficit reduction) we support cruelty against ourselves.