local public finance

Exploitative Revenues, Law Enforcement, and the Quality of Government Service

June 23, 2020 // 0 Comments

By Rebecca Goldstein (Harvard University), Michael W. Sances (University of Memphis), and Hye Young You (New York University) | One aspect of recent criticism of police departments has been centered on the aggressive imposition and collection of fees, fines, and civilly forfeited assets. The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri police department, for example, revealed that a key driver of the behavior of the Ferguson police was the desire to generate municipal revenue by issuing traffic tickets and imposing fees. More broadly, a growing body of evidence indicates that local police departments are being used to provide revenue for municipalities by imposing and collecting fees, fines, and asset forfeitures: Census of Governments data from 2012 shows that about 80 percent of American cities with law enforcement institutions derive at least some revenue from fees, fines, and asset forfeitures, with about 6 percent of cities collecting more than 10 percent of their revenues from fines in 2012 (Sances and You 2017). Are the police engaged in this fee and fine collection at the expense of other important activities? Read More