A state senator who wanted to ban Colorado police departments last session from profiting from civil forfeiture in certain cases is now considering a proposal that would require departments to report such seizures and whether charges were subsequently filed.
“Guilty people will lose the fruits of their crimes, but innocent people will get their assets back,” she told Watchdog.org last session. But the bill, facing serious police opposition, died. Woods was planning to revive the legislation in the 2016 session, but sent out an email Wednesday saying she still can’t find a consensus on the proposal.
“We found some areas of agreement, and still lots of areas of opposition,” she wrote Wednesday.
Instead, Woods is now looking at legislation that would require police departments to report asset seizures and whether the person whose property was taken was charged with any criminal offenses.
“If we gather the data into a database the legislature can see, department by department, what is seized specifically, the value of that item, the charges filed, the disposition of the charges, and the disposition of the seized asset, then we’ll have a better handle on what reform should look like,” her email said.
While abuses have been documented around the country, Colorado police have said it’s not a problem in the state.
“The existing law provides sufficient protections for asset forfeiture in Colorado,” University of Colorado-Boulder police chief Melissa Zak, who was legislative chairwoman of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, told Watchdog earlier this year.
The federal government has also limited sharing of assets with police departments in an effort to stem abuses, and Woods wrote that she received copies of a letter the feds sent out. She is getting clarification to determine if it solves the problem.
But it appears that improper asset forfeiture just might not be a huge problem in Colorado. Woods is scraping an idea for the bill because she can’t find residents affected by the issue.
“One of the problems I’ve had is no victims to come and testify,” she wrote in the email. “Institute for Justice reports that they are seeing this same problem across the country. … Why won’t the victims come and testify? Who are the victims?”