Distorted Financial Incentives for Enforcement
Policies that attach financial incentives to drug law enforcement ensure that local police forces have a vested interest in fueling the drug war. The Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program provides federal funding to hundreds of regional anti-drug taskforces that are notorious for perpetuating racial disparities, police corruption and civil rights abuses.
Because federal funding levels are partially determined by each task force’s arrest rate, law enforcement officials regularly engage in a wide range of abuses to boost their numbers. Byrne-funded task forces are at the center of numerous scandals involving falsified government records, witness tampering, fabricated evidence, false imprisonment, stolen property, large-scale racial profiling and sexual abuse.
Asset forfeiture laws also contribute to corruption in countless local communities. In many communities, police departments are allowed to keep the property they seize in drug busts. As a result, local law enforcement agencies tend to increase their focus on drug busts, often at the expense of more pressing public safety needs.
DPA has joined with other civil rights and criminal justice reform groups to demand an overhaul of the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program that would put an end to financial incentives that prioritize drug arrest rates over effective law enforcement and public safety. While we work with Congress to eliminate wasteful drug war spending, we’re also raising public awareness about the drug war’s distorted priorities and encouraging our constituents to hold their local police departments accountable for corruption and excess.