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Report: Missouri law enforcement gets $9.4 million in asset forfeiture

A report from the state auditor’s office reveals Missouri law enforcement agencies received $9.4 million last year through the federal asset forfeiture program.

Auditor Nicole Galloway released the findings, done annually, after agencies that participated in the program submitted their totals, as required by state law. A spokeswoman for the office said the auditor’s office releases the numbers as a service to the public to see if their local department participates, and how much money the department has on hand.

“The times that Cole County uses the federal forfeiture, in general, is when we have a case that we’ve made that rises to the level that the federal prosecutor will absorb that as a federal prosecution,” Sheriff Greg White told ABC 17 News Monday. His department took in $7,358 in 2014, while spending none of it.

White said his department typically performs criminal asset seizure at the state level – an important distinction when determining where the money goes. If prosecuted in a state circuit court, any proceeds of property taken, such as drugs, firearms or cash, goes towards public education, “righteously” so, according to Sheriff White. In criminal cases involving federal prosecution, usually utilizing federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, a local law enforcement department involved can apply to the Department of Justice for forfeiture funds. If the case ends in a conviction, the judge decides how much money an applying agency receives.

While the report lists the amount departments received in 2014, it fails to conclude how much the departments spent. Several reporting errors and inconsistencies mark several reporting departments – 134 in total reporting it received some money through the program. What was spent and what was made does not equal the final total reported on hand for some. For others, the auditor’s office reported nothing received from the department.

But with the report come various explanations. Columbia Police Department spokeswoman Bryana Maupin said the “receipts” section of the auditor’s report adds the cash assets and non-cash assets (in CPD’s case, a vehicle), which causes a higher total than the actual cash the department had on hand at the end of 2014. Captain Chad Martin with the Boone County Sheriff’s Department said the state auditor’s deadline for submissions comes after the department meets to review and finalize the receipts and expenditures for the year, causing some numbers to change after the report’s release.

The report lists Jefferson City Police Department as one of 14 agencies that did not submit a report, despite reporting a balance at the end of 2013. Captain Doug Shoemaker with the Jefferson City Police Department said they did submit a report to the auditor for 2014, receiving $7,135.42 that year.

Departments can use the money for a variety of goods and services. Sheriff White said his department often uses it to continue participation in the multi-jurisdictional MUSTANG Drug Task Force, since many of those federal dollars come from significant drug busts. Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton told the city council in January his department focuses on items that require a “one-time” purchase. Last month, the department used $40,000 to hire a consultant to analyze efficient ways to use its staff. The department’s website also lists other goods it’s bought since 2011.

The report also lists 214 agencies that have federal forfeiture money from previous years, but did not participate in 2014.

The 348 departments reporting to the auditor’s office only make up a little more than half of the agencies in the state. The other 344 did not send a report, but are not required to report to the department if they do not participate in federal asset forfeiture.

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