Attorney General Jeff Sessions moved to rein in the Justice Department’s asset forfeiture program Tuesday by creating an accountability director position that will review and update current forfeiture policy.
Sessions has long defended the hotly-debated practice of civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement to seize and keep private property, even in the absence of a criminal indictment of the property owner. The new director of asset forfeiture accountability will be tasked with updating guidelines as well as how the department spends forfeiture funds.
Many have called asset forfeiture predatory and ripe for abuse, but Sessions expanded federal forfeiture policy in July, calling for police to be more aggressive with seizures. The federal government has raked in billions through asset forfeiture since 2003.
“As our law enforcement partners will tell you and as President Trump knows well, asset forfeiture is a key tool that helps law enforcement defund organized crime, take back ill-gotten gains, and prevent new crimes from being committed, and it weakens the criminals and the cartels,” Sessions said in a statement.
The new position is also responsible for essentially running the asset forfeiture program, however, which brings into question how seriously the new director will take his accountability responsibilities.
Sessions tasked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with selecting the new director. Rosenstein has yet to make a decision.
“It is important to have senior-level accountability in the Department of the day-to-day workings of the asset forfeiture program, as well as authority to coordinate with relevant components to make the necessary changes to the program to ensure it continues to operate in an accountable and responsible way,” Sessions said.
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