Connecticut Police Chiefs Honor Legislator Who Opposed Forfeiture Fund Reappropriation

Jason Vallee reports at the Berlin Patch:

Members of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association have recognized the House Majoirty Leader for his role working to enhance public safety by fighting for local police departments to keep their seized assets.

When the state was looking for ways to reduce debt over the past couple years, Aresimowicz stood tall against those who suggested using assets seized in police investigations to balance the budget and remained steadfast that a portion of the assets go to local departments instead.

These efforts have now brought Aresimowicz, D-Berlin and Southington, into the spotlight as he was awarded with the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association’s 2013 Legislative Award on Thursday.

“Joe Aresimowicz has distinguished himself over the years as a true champion of the law enforcement community,” said Southington Police Chief Jack Daly, president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association. 

“I’m honored to be presenting this award to him as the President of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association—and as the the Chief of one of the two towns he represents. We in Southington are very fortunate to have him representing us in Hartford.”

Daly said the award is given to legislators that have stood out and strongly supported police issues. Aresimowicz was singled out for his leadership in protecting the ability of Connecticut’s local police departments to keep a portion of seized property and assets, he said. 

Aresimowicz said that municipal police departments depend on the funds from the seized assets to fight crime and balance their budgets.

“Berlin is fortunate to have Joe Aresimowicz as our state representative. He has a great concern for public safety and has repeatedly demonstrated his support for our department and law enforcement in general,” said Berlin Police Chief Paul D. Fitzgerald.

It's a fundamental duty of legislatures to control the purse strings for executive branch agencies. When legislatures fall down on this important duty, as the Connecticut legislature has under the direction of Joe Aresimowicz, citizens are deprived of a fundamental check on their ability to constrain the behavior of the executive branch through their representatives. Moreover, this unappropriated revenue stream gives law enforcement special interests a direct financial incentive in the laws that create forfeitable revenue. This turns cops into de facto legislators, with powerful incentives to manipulate the political process. As Law Enforcement Against Prohibition speaker Diane Goldstein notes:

Law enforcement has long relied on the cliché "we don't make the laws, we just enforce them" when called to task for their role in enforcing unjust laws. For many years this was the case, but in the last two decades the increased lobbying of law enforcement organizations – some motivated by considerations other than upholding the law or improving public safety – has undermined the role of police professionals by making them just one more special interest group.

Lobbying by law enforcement organizations is big business. It has contributed to the policy of mass incarceration as well as misprioritized law enforcement resources that emphasize the prosecution of drug offenses over violent crime. This lobbying has diverted critical fiscal resources from competing governmental services like education, health care and public infrastructure. All this has been done under leaders who are not working as stakeholders and collaborative partners with the voters, but simply protecting their own self interests.

It is up to the Connecticut Legislature to take back their legislative powers of the purse by ending the practice of funding law enforcement through asset forfeiture. Without this reform, Connecticut's citizens will continue to have their rights eroded by law enforcement special interests. 


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