ARLINGTON, Va.—Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ) condemned the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office for using civil forfeiture funds to purchase controversial facial recognition technology from Clearview AI.
“Civil forfeiture is an incredibly perverse system that strips people of their basic due process rights,” said IJ Senior Attorney Dan Alban, who co-directs IJ’s National Initiative to End Forfeiture Abuse. “Police should not be taking property from people without convicting them of a crime. The fact that the Staten Island DA used forfeiture funds to buy shiny new tech demonstrates the perverse profit incentives created when police get to keep forfeiture proceeds.”
The Clearview tools were purchased with funds from the federal Equitable Sharing Program. This program allows local and state police to seize an individual’s property, turn it over to a federal agency for civil forfeiture, and then get a significant kickback from the federal government of up to 80% of the seized funds.
IJ has fought against similar civil forfeiture abuses, including the use of equitable sharing by police in Rochester, New York, to take $8,040 from a woman who was never suspected of a crime and was planning to invest that money in a food truck business.