It’s the same old story, but still a very telling article in Indiana: Drug task force faces audit critical.
The Muncie-Delaware County Drug Task Force is playing a game of keep away that uses money instead of a ball, and the state of Indiana is the monkey in the middle.
Going back to at least 1999, the DTF has ignored a state law requiring cash and proceeds from the sale of other property seized from drug dealers to be deposited in the general fund of the governmental unit employing the DTF officers, according to the State Board of Accounts.
In a nutshell, the state law, set up to avoid the abuse of drug task forces prioritizing law enforcement based on potential seizures, provides that any seizure money must be deposited in the general fund of the city or the county, etc. and then just the specific expenses incurred in the bust being reimbursed to the law enforcement agency, with the remainder used by the city/county/state.
But what the task force does is have the courts direct the deposit into the task force account. Then they expense every officer’s time and every other cost they possibly can relate to the bust in order to keep the money, including paying the deputy prosecutors who aggressively pursue the forfeiture a percentage of the take. In the rare cases that anything is still left, they kick it back to the feds, who keep 20% and give the law enforcement unit 80%, bypassing the city/county/state education fund.
The DTF is downright arrogant about their forfeiture approach, hardly seeming to even realize or care that they have become a mercenary force whose decision-making is driven not be protecting and serving, but by the booty they can grab.
“The DTF can’t survive without dope dealers’ money,” [head of the DTF, Muncie police Sgt. Jess] Neal said. […]
“We’ve had to make adjustments, be more aggressive with asset forfeitures, more aggressive targeting bank accounts, vehicles, tangible property, things we can sell in auctions,” Neal said. […]
Neal can’t recall a time that the DTF ever forfeited surplus funds to the state treasurer for deposit in the common school fund. […]
“Their workout room is out of this world,” [city Controller Mary Ann] Kratochvil said. “It’s a very nice facility.”
Neal said of the workout room in the basement of city hall: “For its size, it’s one of the best in the state. It was purchased by our local dope dealers. We use their money to get in shape so we can chase them around.”
Quite a deal they’ve got going there.
And note that they do everything they can to prevent the money from getting in the education fund, but then they use if to give donations to local youth groups, which acts as positive PR for the task force.
I’ve said it before — drug task forces, as a concept, are a cancer on our society, working to continue the drug war for their own benefit. And even worse are those funded through forfeiture. When law enforcement is motivated by greed, corruption, mismanagement, poor priorities, and even tragedy are likely (see the case of Donald P. Scott).