It looks like the big debate over revamping the state's forfeiture laws will happen today in the Minnesota House. Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, is expected to offer some amendments that have drawn sharp opposition from law enforcement agencies. Liebling has argued it is an inherent conflict of interest for law enforcement agencies to be able to keep the proceeds they get from forfeited property. She has also pushed for a provision that would require individuals be found guilty before their property could be forfeited. It would still allow law enforcement agencies to seize property.
Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson drew sharp criticism from state law enforcement agencies and some Rochester police officers when he spoke in favor of Liebling's proposed changes. In the end, Peterson apologize if he offended officers but said his comments were not meant to suggest there was a problem in Rochester police force.
Others who oppose Liebling's forfeiture reform proposals include Olmsted County Sheriff Steven Von Wald and Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem. Von Wald argues there are already enough safeguards in place to make sure all forfeitures are done properly. He adds that the Southeast Minnesota Narcotics and Gang Strike Task Force is audited annually by the state and by a separate auditor hired by the department. Ostrem said he is concerned her proposal could have on a court system already stretched thin.
This morning, DFLer Liebling could be seen working the Republican side of the House floor talking to members. It's interesting to note that Liebling's forfeiture bill has plenty of support from Republican members including Minority Leader Kurt Zellers and Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa. That saying "politics makes for strange bedfellows" certainly applies here.