Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Police used as tax collectors, justice reform conference told

America's most conservative figures make case for criminal justice reform: Jarvis DeBerry | NOLA.com:

November 6, 2015 - "You want to know why some Ferguson, Mo., residents hated their police? Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform and perhaps the most rigidly conservative man in the country, gave his opinion Friday morning (Nov. 6). Norquist, as everybody knows, hates taxes. And at a criminal justice reform conference hosted by the Charles Koch Institute, Norquist argued that humankind's antipathy for the tax collector explains the anger in that St. Louis suburb.

"As a March report from the Department of Justice revealed, city officials in Ferguson relied on tickets and fees to fund their government. Every year, officials were raising projections, that is, the amount they expected to extract from the people. And who were they expecting to bring them that money? The police.

"'We've turned these guys into tax collectors then we wonder why we hate them," Norquist said. 'Because we haven't read history. Take them out of the tax-collection business!'....<

"Stephanie Cutter, who served as a deputy campaign manager for President Barack Obama in 2012 ... agreed with Norquist that it's problematic to send police out primarily to collect fees, but insisted that it's more complex than that. Cutter also stood with Norquist in opposition to civil asset forfeiture. That's when, for example, the police raid a house looking for drugs and take an occupant's property or cash. Even if the person is acquitted of a crime, he or she will likely have to sue to get their property back. Suing often costs more than the value of the seized property. 'There's nothing fair about it,' Cutter said....

"[O]ther conference panelists complained about the increasing militarization of our police forces. There was also lots of talk about 'overcriminalization.' Some of the panelists seem to equate increasing government regulations on businesses with overcriminalization, but Stephen Smith, a law professor at Notre Dame, said what's happening to individuals is far worse than anything happening to corporations.

"Many of our criminal statutes are vaguely written and judges interpret them in a way that's most favorable to prosecutors, Smith said, and in so many places, indigent defense is a joke....

"Citing the work of attorney Harvey Silverglate who says the average American unwittingly commits three felonies a day, Smith said that in the feds' eyes, 'Everything's a crime. You can try to fight it. Even if you have the money to fight it, you're still going to be convicted.'"

Read more: http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2015/11/grover_norquist_reform.html
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