The libertarian-right and the ACLU-left joined ideologically on two measures passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Phil Bryant pertaining to law enforcement this session. They won one, they lost one. It doesn’t signal any type of political realignment but does illustrate that some issues can be more complicated than simply a party’s support of law enforcement.
The “Back the Badge Act of 2017” (HB645) by Representative Alex Monsour (R-Vicksburg) enhances the penalty of a felony or misdemeanor if it “was committed with the specific intent to target an individual or group because of actual or perceived employment as a law enforcement officer, firefighter or emergency medical technician.”…
…Another measure brought reform to Mississippi’s civil asset forfeiture system which allows law enforcement agencies to seize assets they believe were gained as a result of criminal action, regardless of whether the person was every convicted or even charged with a crime. “Police abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws has shaken our nation’s conscience…many police departments use forfeiture to benefit their bottom lines, making seizures motivated by profit rather than crime-fighting,” said the ACLU. Libertarian National Committee Chairman Nicholas Sarwark called civil asset forfeiture, “nothing more than legalized theft by the government.” Earlier this year, the libertarian leaning Institute for Justice graded Mississippi an “F” on forfeiture transparency.
The law (HB812) signed by Gov. Bryant and authored by Representative Mark Baker (R-Brandon) represents a compromise between civil asset forfeiture opponents and the law enforcement community. The law requires law enforcement agencies to report a description and value of any property seized, the agency that seized it and the status of any challenges. It also requires law enforcement to obtain a seizure warrant within 72 hours to hold the property. This was certainly a victory for the ACLU and libertarian-conservatives, but not a defeat for law enforcement. Sometimes groups can work together to find a balance.