Louisiana is the undisputed “policing for profit” capital of America. The state’s local governments rely on fines and forfeitures than in any other state.
From The Times-Picayune:
The Sunlight Foundation, nonprofit group that touts government transparency, reviewed 2013 Census information and other records. For its measuring stick, it looked at the ratio of fines and forfeitures to local taxes collected.
The national median was 0.02, meaning for every $1 in local taxes, 2 cents in fines or forfeitures are collected for government funding. In Louisiana, the 2013 ratio was 19 cents for every dollar. Arkansas has the second highest figure at 10 cents.
The Sunlight Foundation singled out Henderson as Louisiana’s most fine-reliant municipality. The St. Martin Parish town is best known as a gateway to the scenic Atchafalaya Basin and for its crawfish.
In 2013, Henderson collected $3.73 in fines and forfeits for every $1 of taxes.
“Policing for profit” and using fines as a source of revenue is often a cause of mistrust between police and the citizens they’re supposed to serve. How are people supposed to trust the police when they’re being used as a source of revenue? How are the police supposed to fight crime when they’re too busy collecting money for the city?
There are solutions to this. First is changing the priorities of the police from collecting fines to protecting public safety. The second is we need to fix our ridiculously high homestead exemption so cities can build a property tax base. Therefore they won’t need to rely on fines and civil forfeiture.
Finally, we need to abolish civil forfeiture in this state. Police should not be allowed to take someone’s property without a criminal conviction.