University of Pittsburgh

David Harris on the Dangers of Drug Stings Targeting Cash

Publish Date/Time: 
March 16, 2011
Professor David Harris discussed how law enforcement priorities can become dangerously warped by the incentive to seize cash in drug stings under forfeiture laws in a report by the Goldwater Institute, a conservative public policy think tank in Arizona.  The Institute investigated how the Chandler, Arizona Police Department staged drug deals as sting operations meant to trap not drug sellers, but buyers.  The Department would then seize the cash under Arizona's forfeiture laws, which allowed it to keep significant amounts of the money for its own use.  Such financial incentives, Professor Harris said, can cause police to take unnecessary risks in pursuit of funds.  “You want [the police] to try to break the drug mobs and the drug gangs,” Professor Harris said. “But if enforcing the law and breaking the gangs is not enough incentive, I don’t know what would be. That’s their mission.” Link to the Goldwater Institute's Report
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