Missouri Drug Task Forces Seize a Lot of Money and Don't Keep Close Records Of Where it Goes
In a 2012 seized asset report, about $62,000 was listed in the "Other" category, less than half of the following year. Requests for information on this have been made, but McClendon tells Daily RFT it would require fees to pay for accountants to determine those expenditures.
The SEMO task force is not the only narcotics officers group in Missouri whose seized asset expenditures raise eyebrows of forfeiture reform activists. The MUSTANG drug task force - which works in Boone, Callaway, and Cole counties - spent $39,000 on "informants, 'buy money,' and rewards." Paying for informants and "buy money" is not illegal, but the ethical question is up for debate as it can lead to cases of entrapment, enticement, and sometimes paying money to the very people police are trying to put away.
Also, assets that police seize are supposed to go to a special fund for public schools, according to Missouri state law. However, police can bypass this law by putting seized assets into the federal forfeiture program, which gives the federal government 20 percent and allows police departments to keep the other 80 percent.
This is a normal practice for drug task forces and one that Kevin Glaser, the vice president of the Missouri Narcotics Officers Association, freely admits to doing because he believes the police departments would make better use of the funds than state lawmakers.
For asset forfeiture reform activists like Malin, this is unacceptable.
"SEMO spends the money they steal from the school fund on themselves -- overtime pay, travel and training, bigger guns -- and MUSTANG spends it on undercover buys, which are pretty unethical," he says.
Despite the apparent lack of transparency over how some of the seized asset funds are spent by drug task forces, it's an improvement over previous years when reports weren't even filed. In 2011, state auditor Tom Schweich said not a single audit had been submitted and complained that this had a negative effect on public school funding.
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