Officials for the New York Police Department claim that a detailed account and property seizure would be utterly impossible. A comprehensive effort to report how much money the NYPD takes during arrests would “lead to system crashes.”
The system that is used by the NYPD, “PETS,” essentially accounts for everything that they seizure including but not limited to money and property in criminal cases.
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The New York City Council is considering a bill would target to fix this issue and create accountability within the organization with annual reports. The reports would include how much money was collected as potential evidence or civil forfeitures.
NYPD Assistant Deputy Commissioner Robert Messner gave testimony last week regarding this controversy. He claimed that with the equipment they have, which is the four-year-old top of the line system PETS, is technologically unable to process that. He added that the manpower to do a job such as that wouldn’t be feasible.
“Attempts to perform the types of searches envisioned in the bill will lead to system crashes and significant delays during the intake and release process,” said Messner. He continued stating, “The only way the department could possibly comply with the bill would be a manual count of over half a million invoices each year.”
When asked by the council whether they had come to the hearing with any kind of idea of how much money the NYPD actually seized last year, the officials said they did not.
“I find it strange that the most technologically sophisticated police force in the world cannot track its own property seizures. I just have trouble imagining that that’s the case,” said city councilmember Ritchie Torres during the hearing. “I’m skeptical about the NYPD’s testimony.”
One group, The Bronx Defenders claims, who offers legal representation to low-income New Yorkers, claimed that this is illegal, and is taking legal action against the NYPD.
In January, the Bronx Defenders filed a federal lawsuit — Encarnacion v. City of New York — that challenged the NYPD’s civil forfeiture process. The lawsuit that has now reached class-action status, alleged that the NYPD’s failure to return items it seized related to cases that have been terminated is a violation of constitutional rights.
— The Bronx Defenders (@BronxDefenders) September 15, 2016
“Once a criminal case is over, the US Constitution does not permit the City to withhold someone’s personal property without justification,” attorney Eric Brenner stated in June. “This City’s current policies violate the basic rights of individuals who need the cash and phones that the City is refusing to return.”
Bronx Defenders’ Molly Kovel concluded: “For people without access to an attorney, the hurdles they face to get their property back are simply too high, and they often give up. We hope this case leads to much-needed reform.”