“We Need a Drug Dog So We Can Seize More Property and Raise More Money”

Posted: August 29th, 2012 by Militant Libertarian

from the Agitator

Eapen ThampyAmericans for Forfeiture Reform

WMUF 104.7 FM in Henry, Tennessee, reports:

Henry, Tenn.- At the Henry Mayor and Board of Alderman meeting on Tuesday, board members decided to allow police chief David Andrews to institute a K9 program for the Henry Police Department.

Andrews told board members that the city is missing out on possible revenues that a K9 would bring. He said when you make traffic stops and the driver refuses to allow a search, their hands are tied. If a drug dog alerts on a vehicle, its gives officers probable cause to search a vehicle for drugs or illegal proceeds from drugs. More drug arrests and drug, cash, and vehicle seizures lead to more revenues coming in for the police department and city.

Andrews said the military has a drug dog program and he could get a dog for the city at no upfront cost. The dogs are usually labs and are very gentle, and come trained as drug dogs. Andrews said four hours per week of training is required but the officers will work that into their regular hours. The dog would stay at the officers residence at night and any monies for food, water, and vet care would come from the drug fund.

The board of alderman also approved to allow city recorder Sonya Clayton to call in Jessica Lucas for some part time help in the office whenever needed.
Mayor Joe Qualls said the workload on Clayton has become very heavy and some part time help is needed certain days of the month and to allow backup for sickness and vacation for the city recorder.

Lucas has worked with the city part time before, and was called in a couple of weeks ago when they really needed some help. Lucas never quit or was terminated, but the new budget never allowed for the part time help so she didn’t come back on a regular basis.

The part time help will be at the city recorder’s discretion, brining her in an average of a couple days per week and training her on court paperwork, water bills, deposits, and all aspects of the office. This will be part time, temporary help for the rest of this budget year. It would be up to the city whether or not to budget it again once the new budget year starts next July.

The Institute for Justice reports that Tennessee’s asset forfeiture law rates a “D”:

Tennessee has broad civil forfeiture laws that fail to protect the rights of property owners. There, the government must establish by only a preponderance of the evidence that property is related to a crime and subject to forfeiture. Tennessee also effectively presumes owners are guilty, as the property owner bears the burden of proof for innocent owner claims. And, while it cannot be used to supplement salaries, local drug enforcement nonetheless keeps 100 percent of property forfeited, and there is no requirement to collect or report data on the use of forfeiture or its proceeds in Tennessee.


Update:

Turns out there previously has been misuse of forfeited vehicles, cash, and drugs by law enforcement in Henry County:

A state comptroller’s special investigation of West Tennessee’s 24th Judicial Drug Task Force turned up instances of theft by the agency’s administrative assistant and jail trustees smoking seized crack cocaine.

It also reveals that District Attorney General Hansel McCadams and Henry County Sheriff Monte Belew had a penchant for using a confiscated BMW Z-3 car for their personal use.

The examination of drug task force operations was conducted by the Comptroller’s Division of County Audit with aid from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Auditors said items from drug seizures were stolen or misused with a task force administrative assistant and her ex-husband admitting to taking drugs and other seized items, including utility trailers and a flat-screen television, from the task force.

The report from the Comptroller’s Division of County Audit said McCadams and other directors of the task force were lax in reviewing the agency’s operations. The task force itself didn’t have adequate record-keeping or inventory management practices.

Auditors said they found a group of jail trustees on a work detail had access to seized items without sufficient supervision. Because of that, the report says, some trustees gained access to drug case files, smoked crack cocaine and marijuana while at the Drug Task Force headquarters and stole cash, old coins and other equipment.

According to auditors, McCadams sometimes used a variety of confiscated equipment including a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a golf cart, a go cart, a four-wheeler and a trailer for his personal use. He flew on Drug Task Force airplanes and a helicopter on non-official business, according to the report.

Hat Tip: Orin Kerr at Volokh.

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