The Mississippi city of Richland has a new $4.1 million police station, a top-level training center and a fleet of black-and-white Dodge Charger police cars.
All of it was paid for through civil forfeitures of property and cash seized during traffic stops of what police say were suspected drug runners on Interstate 20.
Civil libertarians question the constitutionality of civil forfeiture, which has become a key part of revenue for state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide. Under the laws of many states, citizens can be deprived of their property or even cash if police merely suspect the owners to be involved in criminal activity.
Mayor Mark Scarborough and police chief WR “Russel” James of Richland — population 7,03and located south of Jackson on I-20 in Rankin County — say they’re not only giving city taxpayers a bargain, but they’re also helping do their part to stem the heavy drug trade that travels between Texas and Atlanta on I-20, which eventually trickles down to smaller cities like theirs.
Lee McGrath, legislative counsel for the libertarian Institute for Justice, said the tide is turning on civil forfeiture in the nation.