Oklahoma Takes A Hard Look At What Police Seize — And How It’s Spent

from NPR

In Oklahoma, some people in charge of enforcing the law seem to be skirting it. State audits have found people in district attorney offices have used seized money and property to live rent-free and pay off student loans.

When state Sen. Kyle Loveless first heard about the audits, he’d already been thinking about amending the civil asset forfeiture laws — mainly because the state doesn’t always follow the law.

“We’ve seen in Oklahoma — through county commissioner scandals, Supreme Court justice scandals — if we let people go without any checks and balances in place, bad things happen,” Loveless says.

The forfeiture laws are loose in Oklahoma. Law enforcement can seize property or money they believe was used in a crime — even if they don’t charge anyone.

Forfeited funds that aren’t contested stay with the seizing agency or local prosecutors. They’re supposed to be used for “law enforcement purposes,” but Sen. Loveless says paying off student loans with this money seems like a stretch.

“When asked about it, law enforcement said, ‘Well, he’s a DA and he prosecutes bad guys, so therefore it’s law enforcement,’ ” he says.

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