Auditor: Police use of controversial forfeiture law declining in Minnesota
Law enforcement agencies in Minnesota took about $9 million in cash, cars and other property through forfeiture in 2022, but new figures released from the Office of the State Auditor show the use of the controversial practice is on the decline.
“Here’s the big trend,” Auditor Julie Blaha announced at a news conference Wednesday. “Asset forfeitures are down in Minnesota and that continues a five-year trend.”
Blaha’s office reports a 35% decline in the last five years and a 15% drop in forfeitures just since 2021.
The drop comes after lawmakers passed legislation in 2021 that bars police from taking cash less than $1,500 and limits certain vehicle forfeitures.
While the full impact of changes to the law has yet to be measured, Blaha credits the increased focus on the impact of forfeiture as well as a “professional conversation” with law enforcement and other stakeholders.
“I think what we’re seeing is that when people come together and are working toward the same goal, they get results,” Blaha said. “When you make a change to small forfeitures, you’re not impacting the bottom line of a public entity by much … but you are making things a lot better for a regular person — particularly somebody in poverty.”
The new law also requires Minnesota law enforcement agencies to report how they spend money from forfeiture.
In 2022, departments across the state spent a total of $8.5 million, with more than half of that amount going toward “capital expenditures,” “salaries,” and “professional services.”
“This is not a large part of public safety budgets,” Blaha said. “I think there’s this myth that this is keeping places afloat. it’s really not. And this is why I think it was easier to make some of these changes.”
Read the state auditor’s full report below: