[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced last week that it is suspending its asset seizure program which allows for local police departments to keep items confiscated from individuals under federal law. The controversial equitable sharing program allows for police departments to execute asset forfeiture cases under federal law instead of state law. While executing the program, police officers collect numerous items and cash from individuals who have not been convicted of any crime. It is reported [WP report] that under the current DOJ program local police departments can collect 80 percent of all proceeds related to the asset forfeiture.
Local Police departments have been facing lots of criticism across the US recently. Last month Van Dyke was charged [JURIST report] with first-degree murder for the death of McDonald in October 2014. City officials have been sharply criticized for waiting over one year since the incident to release the footage of the officer shooting the teenager and to bring charges against Van Dyke. In September Baltimore City Circuit Judge Barry Williams rejected motions [JURIST report] to drop charges against six police officers implicated in the case of Freddie Gray, a black man who was injured in police custody and later died in April. Earlier this year Judge Edgar Dickson of the South Carolina Circuit Court declared a mistrial [JURIST report] in the murder case against a former police chief for the 2011 killing of an unarmed black man. After a grand jury decided not to indict [JURIST report] the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Micheal Brown, here was a large uproar from the Ferguson community that led to mass protests and violence in some instances. The case had reached international news with Amnesty International reporting [JURIST report] human rights abuses by Ferguson Police in late October.