“Since 9/11, under just one program police have taken two-and-a-half billion dollars in the course of over 61,000 seizures of cash alone, from people who . . . were not charged with a crime. That is the sort of behavior we laugh at other countries for, along with their accents and silly hats.”
So says a prime-time TV comedian who devotes more than 15 minutes of his monologue to exposing and critiquing the malignant practice of “civil forfeiture,” which lets cops grab and keep your cash just because it’s there.
You won’t find such an extended, mostly spot-on critique of civil forfeiture — bolstered by Q&A with the likes of Ezekiel Edwards and Scott Bullock — delivered by a “Tonight Show” or “Late Night” host. The credit goes to John Oliver (HBO’s “Last Week Tonight”), who finds plenty to satirize in the contradictions and silliness of “law enforcers” who function as thieves.
Much of the work is done for him. Oliver doesn’t have to try too hard, for example, to poke fun at the Funk Night raid, caught on video. The police seized 48 cars, contending, “simply driving vehicles to the location of an unlawful sale of alcohol was sufficient to seize a car.” Says Oliver: “Which means you might as well seize any car being driven by any teen on prom night.”
I’ve been more or less indifferent to the fate of John Oliver’s new HBO show; but now I say, ardently, “Live long and prosper!”
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.