A recently unsealed indictment confirmed that an investigation into the Kansas City Kansas Police Department’s elite tactical Selective Crime Occurrence Reduction Enforcement (SCORE) unit resulted in criminal charges against officers Jeffrey M. Bell, 33, Darryl M. Forrest, 31, and Dustin Sillings, 33. The officers are accused of having pilfered money and goods planted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.According to the indictments, the officers are accused of stealing cash, video games, entertainment consoles, and a recording device. A Kansas City Star article noted:
Among allegations in the indictments; SCORE officers conspired to steal while carrying out search warrants. On July 7, 2010, while serving a search warrant at Webster’s home, they stole a Play Station portable and a camcorder. From January 2010 to Jan. 4, 2011, Sillings served five search warrants and stole at least six Play Station video games. During the Jan. 4 sting, Bell stole a Nintendo game player; Forrest stole a video game, an Apple iPod and $300; and Sillings stole $340.
This is a common and fairly foreseeable problem. And it isn’t unique to Kansas City. Most states have erected a set of laws that reward police departments for taking private property. Usually it’s done under the color of civil asset forfeitures. Police departments take whatever they claim has anything to do with alleged illegal behavior including anything that might have come from the proceeds of alleged illegal behavior. Property owners are then forced to prove the innocence of their property if they hope to have their property returned. The police departments and prosecuting offices divvy up the proceeds from the seizures either directly, or through laundering the proceeds through the Department of Justice’s Equitable Sharing program.
Sometimes they make charitable donations for good will which is a nice diversion from the fact that an overwhelming amount goes back to the police departments. That process and how the money is spent often have little to no external oversight. Voters and appropriating bodies get to spend less on police departments because the police departments generate enormous asset forfeiture profits. This means that the police departments do not have to answer to the local citizenry because the citizenry have lost their power of the purse. Rudimentary controls like bans on asset forfeiture funds being used for salaries (if present) are largely ineffective because the forfeiture funds are replacing funds that would otherwise be spent on salaries. And the incentive for profit, without having to answer to a tempering citizenry, leads to enhanced profit seeking techniques like the paramilitary SWAT raids that killed Iraq war veteran, Jose Guerena.
This takes us back to Kansas City. We’ve set up a system whereby our cops are incentivized to seize property with little oversight and little citizen control. We’ve already corrupted our police departments. Is it really a surprise that some of the cops are cutting out the middlemen and not sharing with the department?