As long as the police can self-fund the drug war through asset forfeiture they will never need to reexamine their misplaced priorities in these lean fiscal times. Today’s example comes Mason City, Iowa:
The North Central Iowa Narcotics Task Force will use drug forfeiture funds to make up for a nearly $50,000 cut in federal funding to the program.
The task force will receive $139,184 in funding through the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program for fiscal year 2012.
That’s compared to $183,912 in federal funds that the task force received in fiscal year 2011.
Task Force head and Cerro Gordo County Sheriff Kevin Pals said the grant paid 75 percent of the costs of wages and benefits for four full-time drug investigators with the Mason City Police Department, Cerro Gordo County Sheriff’s Department, Clear Lake Police Department and Franklin County Sheriff’s Department.
Let’s momentarily set aside the fact that if this money came from federal equitable sharing, the task force cannot legally use it to fund ongoing operations, such as salaries (see page 19).
The most important point here is that the department likely sees this as an investment–spending money to make money. That creates perverse incentives for police departments, such as the one I pointed out here: police focus on seizing money instead of drugs, which undermines the whole supposed purpose for the drug war.
To call this behavior mercenary is to besmirch the good name of conscientious mercenaries worldwide. The more apt comparison is to mafioso, who allow people to sell drugs in their territory in exchange for a cut of the money. As Omar would say, “It’s all in the game.”