NYPD: We can't tell you how much cash we seize because it would break our computers

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/09/16/nypd-we-cant-tell-you-how-m.html



It’ll break your system? Then I’m pretty sure it’s not working now anyway.

Do a manual count. That’s why you keep records anyway. So we can audit your gang activity.

The cops work for us. I’d be fired immediately if I tried to pull this kind of shit. Cops aren’t special. So they better start putting on their little finger condoms and get to paper shuffling.


They are stealing.


What’s the minimum that the police can seize? If it’s, say, $500, then the minimum here is going to be $250,000,000. Per year. Or over $7000 for each uniformed cop in the NYPD.

I must be misunderstanding something, because that sounds like organized robbery.


I seriously doubt there’s any untoward activity going on with unsearchable cash seizures by police.


C’mon folks, be reasonable! It’s not like computers were made for performing calculations.


How the hell can forfeiture be at all constitutional?

Just checked, and the Supreme Court has upheld it based, ultimately, on precedent of an 1827 piracy case where they ruled the action was against the asset itself (in this case a ship) rather than the owner. Bizarre.

At this point, it looks like it would need to be outlawed by Federal statute or maybe even an amendment (say, adding “We really mean it!” to the text of the 5th amendment). Something ought to be done, but I doubt it will.


That doesn’t even make any damn sense. If he had said, “Our system just isn’t set up to provide that kind of information via the existing interface” I’d believe it, because the NYPD’s system is pretty fucked up and archaic from what I’ve heard. But that would just be an admission that they need to work on their system.

Every time the issue comes up, I wonder that. You’d think that the fact the constitution mentions that people will not be deprived of property without due process multiple times would be a strong indicator that it’s not constitutional. I’m not sure how yet another amendment would actually help any.


So what they’re really saying is “We have no idea how much cash is being stolen by police officers in the name of civil asset forfeiture”. After all, if they are honestly saying they can’t tell us that figure then they can’t be effectively tracking it internally.

I’ve always wondered what the ratio is of Cash Seized by Cops vs Cash Seized by Cops and Reported to their department.


Given the basis of civil forfeiture, it doesn’t exactly need to be a complicated one: You can not charge inanimate objects with crimes.

Legally it’s weird as fuck, they’re not seizing your assets, you see, they’re alleging that the item in question is involved in a crime and arresting it. Kinda. The government then sues the property, not the person, although the person can act as an interested 3rd party and attempt to defend their property.

Like I said: weird as fuck.


Can’t they just seize some better computers?


And it gets even better weirder. The case names are things like ‘New York Police Department vs Four Hundred 100USD Bills’.

I am not exaggerating.


I could buy that he’s computer-illiterate and is just repeating badly what he’s been told by his administrative assistants, but… half-a-million invoices per year? That’s one invoice for every 16 citizens of NY. Every year. That’s out of control.


“The only way the department could possibly comply with the bill would
be a manual count of over half a million invoices each year.”

Well, then. Perhaps they should get started.


Right! That’s what calculators are for. Computers are for computing the results of calculations. See? Totally different.


How much asset forfeiture actually results in legal action? It seems like mostly it starts - and ends - with the cops just snaffling valuables and keeping them. The article talks about only $11K worth of currency having formal proceedings brought against it, with the police taking in millions. Not to mention that the constitution is pretty clear on the whole thing, so playing some game about charging inanimate objects only “works” in the first place because the constitution is being ignored. If you’re already willing to ignore multiple portions of the constitution, ignoring one more doesn’t seem like an issue.

I’m not sure what to make of it. From what I’ve read, at least some of the paperwork being done by police there is actual paperwork - 100% analog, done on typewriters. I could easily believe that the computer systems are old, slow and not-fit-for-purpose, and, at best, computerized records wouldn’t provide the given information without someone having to do some additional scripting work. Except they apparently have been bragging about how great and modern this particular system is, and they’ve apparently already used the system to at least roughly calculate how much money they bring in via forfeitures, so…

I assume those invoices represent every single bit of evidence introduced into the system, of any sort.


It’s because of Scalia. Who was arguably the Supreme Court’s most activist judge. Judicial activism is actually a meaningful thing. It means that the judge’s decisions are unpredictable because they stop following precedent. It’s not so much about judges being liberal, but instead about judges no longer following the same methods that makes due process something worth trying because you know what outcomes there could be.

Scalia threw out so much precedent and decided cases based on his own ideology so often that he’s by far the most activist judge we’ve ever had.

Thank FSM he’s dead now. At least now we can start rebuilding after the destruction he’s wrought.


That sounds more reasonable. But it only raises the question of why the cash, the most fungible and easily mis-appropriated type of evidence (save for drugs, maybe), isn’t being tracked separately.


if they can’t get the information from the cops, could the get it from the courts? because The City of New York Versus 400 $100 Bills sounds like there was at least a court clerk involved in the process.