Some critics of asset forfeiture want to end the practice altogether. Others agree with police that forfeiture is a useful law enforcement tool; their objection is to what they consider a police conflict of interest. To solve that, some say, the proceeds of seized assets should go to general government coffers, not to police agencies. Every time someone proposes such a measure, law enforcement officials complain loudly.
In Kansas, a couple of state lawmakers want to redirect asset forfeiture proceeds to the school system. Here's what Osage County Sheriff Ken Lippert thinks of that idea: "I don't see the schools out there, in all kinds of weather, in a car with a gun and a badge, trying to take the dope away from these people like my guys are. I feel like it's law enforcement money because we're out there earning it."
Each year, police make about one and a half million drug arrests and seize more than $500 million dollars in assets. People who applaud the war on drugs and those who have doubts about it agree on this: Police and sheriffs' departments would not have waged the war with the same vigor over the last decade and a half if not for asset forfeiture.
Next: Part III Turning the Key: California's Prison Guards