The use of civil asset forfeiture, which allows police to seize – and then keep or sell – property involved in a crime, to fund the war on drugs will be the focus of the next Conversations on Race and Police at Cal State San Bernardino.
“Paid for by Crime: Civil Asset Forfeiture and the War on Drugs,” with Kenneth Alyass, a Ph.D. student in history at Harvard University where he studies race, class and crime in American cities during the late 20th century, will be presented at 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 2, on Zoom.
The talk, which is free and open to the public, can be accessed from a PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android at https://csusb.zoom.us/j/97960458784.
Alyass will discuss how law enforcement agencies financed their anti-drug efforts with funds raised by drug sales. From the presentation’s abstract: “To assuage critics of police spending and find creative ways to self-finance anti-drug policing, Chief William H. Hart of the Detroit Police Department, in partnership with the courts and Wayne County prosecutor’s office, devised a new initiative to raise funds while fighting crime and drugs. He declared that instead of having the taxpayers fork over the dollars to pay for the department’s war on crack, the city’s new and expanded drug war would be ‘financed from funds confiscated from drug dealers.’ In effect, the law enforcement in Detroit during the late 1980s and early 1990s funded part of its war on crack with funds made by crack. In the process of doing so, the nature of anti-drug policing changed. The profitability factor came into play at all parts of the criminal justice process, from the first raid and arrests to the final judgment of the court and the transfer of property to the police agency. This talk will unpack the historic expansion of civil forfeiture as it played on at the local level in one Rust Belt city.”
Conversations on Race and Policing, also known as CoRP, began in the aftermath of the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd while in the custody of four Minneapolis, Minn., police officers. A video of the incident posted on social media led to widespread protests, the firing of four police officers, the arrest and conviction of one officer on a second-degree murder and related charges, the other three on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder – and a spotlight worldwide on race and policing.
The series has featured scholars, journalists, law enforcement officers, lawyers, activists, artists, educators, administrators and others from throughout the nation who shared their experience and expertise on issues related to race and policing.
More than 50 forums have taken place, and video recordings of the sessions are posted online on the Conversations on Race and Policing Lecture Series Archive.
The series is organized by CSUSB students, staff and faculty, including recent history master of arts graduate, Cecelia Smith; history master of arts student Matt Patino; Mary Texeira, professor emerita, sociology; Jeremy Murray, professor of history; Robie Madrigal, public affairs/communication specialist for the CSUSB John M. Pfau Library; and community member Stan Futch, president of the Westside Action Group.
The next presentation in the series will be at 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 9: “In Conversation with Cat Brooks,” the host of KPFA’s “Law and Disorder,” a weekly radio show in the San Francisco Bay Area that, according to its website, “exposes the cracks in our system, agitates for resistance and collectively builds a new world where all of us thrive.”