Chapter Overview: 24


In September, 1992, Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Gary Spencer, a member of the Sheriff’s narcotics unit, received information from an undisclosed informant that approximately 3,000 marijuana plants were growing on the 200-acre ranch of Donald P. Scott and his wife, Frances Plante in Malibu, California

Photograph of young Donald P. Scott

Photograph of young Donald P. Scott

Conversations with Scott and his wife, in addition to ground and aerial reconnaissance yielded no credible evidence of marijuana plants growing on the property.

Nevertheless, Deputy Spencer procured a search warrant issued by a judge in Ventura County.

On October 2, 1992, while serving the search warrant at the ranch, Deputy Sheriff Spencer and four other Deputy sheriffs went to the residence of Mr. Scott and his wife, knocked on the door repeatedly and said they were police officers with a search warrant. When there was no immediate answer the officers broke down the door and  entered, brandishing guns. Mr. Scott’s wife said, “Don’t shoot me, don’t kill me.” Next the police saw Mr. Scott holding a pistol. Deputy Sheriff Spencer shot Scott dead, stating that he feared for his life. Scott was 61 years old.

No marijuana was ever found on the Scott property. However, the presence of marijuana would have been legal cause for confiscating the entire property under asset forfeiture law.

The killing of Mr. Scott was controversial. The road to the Scott ranch is located in Los Angeles County. The ranch itself is located in Ventura County. Because Scott was killed in Ventura County by Los Angeles County deputy sheriffs, the District Attorney of Ventura County investigated the incident and published a 64-page report about it.

The District Attorney of Ventura County concluded that the search warrant was invalid because Deputy Spencer, in his affidavit in support of the search warrant, had misrepresented important facts and withheld other relevant information that cast doubt on the existence of marijuana on the Scott ranch. Taking into account the misrepresentations and withholding of facts by Deputy Spencer, the Ventura County District Attorney concluded that there was a lack of probable cause to justify issuance of a search warrant for the Scott property.

The report also concluded that Deputy Sheriff Gary Spencer was motivated in large part by an intent to confiscate the Scott property by a legal process known as civil asset forfeiture.

Image of layout of Scott's property, with the following notes written by Sheriff's department: "80 acres sold for 0,000 in 1991 in same area."

Image of layout of Donald Scott’s ranch, with notes written by an agent of the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency reading: “80 acres sold for $800,000 in 1991 in same area.”

The report of the District Attorney stated: “On September 2, 1992, at a briefing conducted by the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department . . . officers present received documents which included a property appraisal statement of the Trail’s End Ranch [Mr. Scott’s property] and a parcel map of the area . . .  [A] DEA Special Agent . . . made a notation on the parcel map indicating that the property encompassed 200 acres and that 80 acres ‘in the area’ had recently sold for $800,000. We can find no reason why law enforcement officers who were investigating suspected narcotics violations would have any interest in the value of the Trail’s End Ranch or the value of property sold in the same area other than if they had a motive to forfeit that property.” 1

According to the Institute for Justice, “Civil forfeiture laws represent one of the most serious assaults on private property rights in the nation today.  Under civil forfeiture, police and prosecutors can seize your car or other property, sell it and use the proceeds to fund agency budgets—all without so much as charging you with a crime . . . [W]ith civil forfeiture, owners need not be charged with or convicted of a crime to lose homes, cars, cash or other property. . .

“Federal laws encourage even more civil forfeiture abuse through a loophole called ‘equitable sharing’ that allows law enforcement to circumvent even the limited protections of state laws.  With equitable sharing, law enforcement agencies can and do profit from forfeitures they wouldn’t be able to [accomplish] under state law.” 2

The Donald Scott case is an example of a great number of cases in which law enforcement has used asset forfeiture to attack the property of innocent people who are never accused of, much less convicted of, any violation of law.


"God, the law and the king" on one page and the Golden Rule on the other. Painting by Bernard d'Agesci.

“God, the law and the king” on one page and the Golden Rule on the other. Painting by Bernard d’Agesci.

Andrew Galambos, whose lectures inspire this book, opined that a major source of human unhappiness stems from insecurity due to concern that one’s property, including life itself, may be attacked by predators committing theft, robbery, and even violent acts that cause physical injury or death. However, it appears that humans did not begin to develop formal institutions for property protection until a relatively recent time in the history of Homo sapiens.

Beginning in the late Neolithic period from 6000 B.C.E. to 2000 B.C.E., people made social arrangements for the protection of property. For example, Galambos observed that the Biblical Golden Rule, in its double negative iteration, “do not do unto other that which is hateful to you,” is a rule of property protection; and that half of the Ten Commandments of the Hebrew Bible are rules for protection of property. F. A. Hayek observed that humanity evolved social rules and customs that enabled people to live peaceably together by curbing the instinctive drive to commit anti-social behavior. 3 The Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments are examples of such socially evolved principles of human conduct.

Police and private security in historical context

19th century English constable

19th century English constable

Until the nineteenth century, protection of property was not considered the responsibility of a centralized political state. In England before and after the Norman Conquest of 1066 there was compulsory, unpaid sharing of responsibility for keeping the peace under the local supervision of an individual originally called a Constable. The unpaid office of Constable continued in England until the 19th century introduction of police officers paid by cities.

In America there were no paid police officers until the mid-nineteenth century introduction of paid municipal police modeled after the example of English police. Private security, that is the provision of security services by privately owned and operated businesses has co-existed with police in America continuously since the introduction of police paid by cities, counties, states and eventually the United States.

During the period 1830-1900 on the western frontier, there was a virtual absence of strong, centralized, coercive authority. However, the western frontier was not as wild as legend would indicate. There were protection and arbitration agencies that functioned very effectively, either as a complete replacement for formal government or as a supplement to government. Disputes on the western frontier were generally avoided or resolved peacefully, among fur trappers, in wagon trains of westward bound settlers, in settling competing claims for land and water rights, and in mining camps.

C.M. Russell's painting of American cowboys.

C.M. Russell’s painting of American cowboys.

The original function of paid, public police in America and England was to patrol cities in order to watch out for criminal activity and prevent attacks on property. Gradually, the function of police changed to that of law enforcement.

Law enforcement is not at all the same thing as protection of persons or property.

Actions by law enforcement officers all too frequently include attacks on the property of people innocent of any wrongdoing. That kind of law enforcement has become the public policy of the United States and most, if not all, of the fifty states of the union.

A California Highway Patrol pulling a driver over.

A California Highway Patrol pulling a driver over.

Unlike the police, private security focuses solely on protecting persons and property. Therefore, it would be reasonable to provide by contract that a private security company would be financially liable for injuries and harm caused by the company’s failure to prevent an attack on persons or property that the company had agreed to protect.

Since the mid-20th century the private security business in America has grown to a large size, employing more security agents than are employed as police in total by the United States, its constituent states, and their local city and county police forces.

This growth of the private security business has occurred contemporaneously with the evolution of paid public police from property protectors to law enforcement agents.

Police have no duty to protect people

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that citizens do not have a constitutional right to police protection. According to reporter Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times, “for hours on the night of June 22, 1999, Jessica Gonzales tried to get the Castle Rock [Colorado] police to find and arrest her estranged husband, Simon Gonzales, who was under a court order to stay 100 yards away from the house. He had taken the children, ages 7, 9 and 10, as they played outside, and he later called his wife to tell her that he had the girls at an amusement park in Denver.

“Ms. Gonzales conveyed the information to the police, but they failed to act before Mr. Gonzales arrived at the police station hours later, firing a gun, with the [dead] bodies of the girls in the back of his truck. The police killed him at the scene.” 4

The Gonzales case came to the Supreme Court from a lower federal court. Presumably, Mrs. Gonzales’ lawyer filed the case in the federal court because Colorado law precluded a lawsuit against government for failure to provide police protection. Every state has a law stating that government is not liable to citizens for failure of police to protect them from harm. 5

Edward M. Davis, 1916-2006, former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department

Edward M. Davis, 1916-2006, former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department

The Supreme Court ruled that Ms. Gonzales did not have a Constitutional property interest in police enforcement of the restraining order; and federal law does not create a system by which police departments are generally held financially liable for crimes that better policing might have prevented.

An outspoken Los Angeles Chief of Police, Ed Davis, said to the public “Get a dog and a gun. The Police Department cannot protect you.” 6

A Tallahassee, Florida police chief stated, “The community cannot put enough cops out there to protect everyone. You’ve got to empower the people to protect themselves.” 7

The security industry

Unlike police, who protect people and property on occasion when that is incidental to their duty to enforce laws, the essence of the business of private security, and the reason it exists, is to protect people and property.

The private security industry employs more guards, patrol personnel and detectives than the federal, state and local governments combined. There were 10,000 private security companies active in America as of the year 2009. The largest has a 24% market share, and the ten largest have about two-thirds of the market. 8

According to a report to an agency within the U.S. Department of Justice, 45% of local government entities contract out security functions to private security companies. The federal government uses 15,000 private security company employees to guard and protect various federal locations, including guards at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and screening of visitors to the Statute of Liberty in New York Harbor. 9


School security 

Columbine High School shootings: 1 ½ years’ advance warning

Columbine_High_School_signIn the Columbine High School Massacre of April, 1999, the local Sheriff’s office had ample advance warning of impending danger. At the time of the shootings a Sheriff’s Deputy was assigned to the high school as a full-time uniformed and armed security guard. Unfortunately, the Deputy Sheriff’s presence was inadequate to avert the tragedy, although his actions probably prevented it from becoming worse than it did. By the time the Deputy Sheriff became aware of what was happening and radioed for help, the killing had started, and it continued for sixteen minutes. The shooters killed thirteen people and wounded another twenty-one persons. Police did not arrive in force until 41 minutes after the shooting started and fifteen minutes after the killers stopped shooting people.

The killers were seniors at the high school. They were known by the Sheriff’s Department to be heavily armed and threatening of another student as early as 1 ½ years before they invaded the high school to start their murderous rampage. The two would be killers published threats to kill people on their Internet blog. The Sheriff’s Department did nothing to intervene to prevent the killers from carrying out the plans laid out on the Internet. A year before the massacre, a sheriff’s deputy prepared an affidavit in support of an application to court for a warrant to search the homes of the two students who had threatened violence. However, the deputy sheriff failed to seek the issuance of a warrant, a fact that the Sheriff’s department concealed for over a year after the shootings at the high school. 10

Freedom can do nothing about the social and family conditions that cause a psychologically disturbed person to shoot and kill innocent students and teachers at a school. But private security and schools could work together to create safe learning environments. To see how schools can be kept safe in a free society, please see the full text of this chapter.

Crime prevention

Andrew Galambos said in his lectures that all criminals start with what at first seem like petty interferences with the property of others. That is the time to institute a requirement of restitution. If the aggressive activity continues, restitution would be required every time the individual attacks persons or property. It should be added that if the individual displays signs that he is a physical danger to others, surveillance and guarding could be instituted.

Failure to make restitution to victims could result in a criminal’s isolation from society, up to and including banishment and exile into a colony of similar people. Such a person would have nowhere else to go in a society with a fully developed credit mechanism. He could not buy food, clothing, shelter or anything else because his bad credit would bar him from acquiring anything in a free market regulated only by credit and the law of supply and demand. This concept will be discussed in more detail in the upcoming chapter entitled “Justice.”


In the foregoing we briefly discussed the human desire for security and the state’s shortcomings in providing public security. We illustrated how private security in a state-free society could operate to protect life and property more effectively. In the remaining portion of this chapter, we show that through its civil asset forfeiture programs, the United States of America—the very agency of supposed security for citizens—is actually the foremost cause of insecurity.

IRS bank account seizures

For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders operated a cash-only restaurant in a small, Iowa town. She deposited cash receipts at a nearby bank, until May 2013 when two IRS agents informed her that they had seized the entire $32,700 balance in her checking account.

Carole Hinders inside her Mexican restaurant. Photo courtesy of The Institute for Justice.

Carole Hinders inside her Mexican restaurant.
Photo courtesy of The Institute for Justice.

The New York Times commented: “The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a report that is required to be made by banks when customers deposit more than $10,000 in cash.

“Ms. Hinders asked in an interview ‘How can this happen? Who takes your money before they prove that you’ve done anything wrong with it?’

“The federal government does.

“Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up.” 11

The leading newspaper in Carole Hinders’ state of residence, Iowa, has also reported her case. According to a report in the Des Moines Register, “This happens far more than people realize, and most people give up their money because they can’t afford the representation they need to fight [the seizure].” 12

Ms. Hinders eventually got her money back, but only after the Institute for Justice took up her case, and the New York Times embarrassed the IRS with its coverage of the case.

Philadelphia: home seizures as a city revenue measure

Chris and Markella Sourovelis stand in front of their home.

Chris and Markella Sourovelis in front of their home.
Image courtesy of The Institute for Justice

For years the city of Philadelphia has used asset forfeiture laws to seize nearly $6 million in property from its citizens annually, including hundreds of homes, using that money to pad law-enforcement budgets.

Christos Sourovelis and his wife Markella (pictured here at their home) were never charged with a crime or accused of wrongdoing. One day in 2013 police came to the Sourovelis’ home to arrest their 22-year old son on a charge of selling $40 worth of narcotic drugs at the family home. A month-and-a-half later police came back and seized the Sourovelis’ home, forcing them out on the street.

After the Institute for Justice undertook to represent Mr. and Mrs. Sourovelis pro bono, as part of a federal class action lawsuit, the city of Philadelphia agreed to dismiss its civil-forfeiture proceedings against the Sourovelis’ home.

Home seizures by eminent domain

In Kelo v. City of New London [Connecticut] the U. S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the use of eminent domain to transfer land from one private owner to another private owner to further economic development, even if the purpose was to enhance municipal tax revenues rather than to eliminate blighting. 13

Susette Kelo, left, and IJ Senior Attorney Scott Bullock outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo courtesy of The Institute for Justice.

Susette Kelo, left, and IJ Attorney Scott Bullock outside U.S. Supreme Court. Photo courtesy of The Institute for Justice.

The result: Susette Kelo lost her home. It was taken in accordance with processes of political democracy operating in her home town and state of New London, Connecticut and approved by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The frequency of such injustices in this country is egregious. To read how police are committing “legal” highway robbery on our roads and highways, robbing innocent people of their cash, please see the full text of this chapter.


The ultimate justification of a political state is to provide security to the people inhabiting the territory over which the state has jurisdiction.

The political democracies in the world in the 21st century do not provide security to their citizens. In what is reputedly the freest nation on earth, the United States of America, the state is the biggest source of insecurity, attacking and injuring more people, and confiscating far more property than all the petty criminals and organized gangs of outlaws combined.

In a subsequent chapter on Defense, CTLR will posit that no political state really has the ability to defend its citizens, although two small countries, Israel and Switzerland come closer to that goal than larger and more powerful political states.

In this chapter we have posited, and have illustrated with numerous examples, that the political state in America not only fails to defend its citizens but is the biggest threat to their security.

We have also begun the exposition of the means by which private enterprise can provide real security by real protection of individuals’ lives and property.


  1. Quotation from text of supplement to Ventura County District Attorney report reproduced at
  2. Quoted from Institute for Justice, “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture,” March 2010,
  3. See Hayek, F. A. The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism (University of Chicago paperback edition 1989, originally published in 1988),  page 12.
  4. Quoted from “Justices Rule Police Do Not Have a Constitutional Duty to Protect Someone,” by Linda Greenhouse, New York Times, June 28, 2005
  5. See Disinformation, “The Police Aren’t Legally Obligated to Protect You,” by Russ Kick,
  6. Reported in a reader’s letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times, February 6, 1992, at
  7. Quoted in Benson, Bruce L., To Serve and Protect: Privatization and Community in Criminal Justice (1998), page xxi, citing “Crime Stats Fall, with Thanks to You,” Tallahassee Democrat, February 27, 1995.
  8. RTI International, “The Private Security Industry,” December 2010, page 5-1, by Kevin Strom, Marcus Berzofsky, Bonne Shook-Sa, Kelle Barrick, Crystal Daye, Nicole Horstmann, and Susan Kinsey, hereafter cited as RTI, The Private Security Industry
  9. RTI, The Private Security Industry, cited above, at page 4-15
  10. See Wikipedia, Columbine High School Massacre,
  12. Quotations from the Des Moines Register are from “Forfeiture target calls it ‘a violation of civil rights’” by Daniel P. Finney, November 2, 2014
  13. The Supreme Court decision is reported by the Court at 545 U.S. 469 (2005); the opinion of the majority of the justices, by Justice Stevens is reproduced at
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