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Santa’s $140,000 Present

On September 28, 2011, in Drug War, federal, states, by John Payne

The first line of this article from the Hawaii Tribune-Herald probably says more than the author intended:

Christmas came early for Big Island police, with Uncle Sam playing Santa.

Of course, when the department relies on Santa’s gifts to continue business as usual, it also becomes more willing to take its marching orders from Santa than local political bodies. The rest of the article is no more reassuring:

The Internal Revenue Service presented a check for $140,000 to Chief Harry Kubojiri, Deputy Chief Paul Ferreira and Assistant Chief Marshall Kanehailua Wednesday afternoon at the Hapuna Prince Hotel.

The money is the department’s share of forfeiture proceedings from Audwin Aiwohi, the Big Island kingpin of a former methamphetamine trafficking ring, who was busted in May 2005. Aiwohi, 48, is serving a 10-year sentence in a federal penitentiary in California with a projected release date of Jan. 27, 2014.

“It is an honor to transfer a drug dealer’s money to the men and women of the Hawaii County Police Department who helped make this prosecution possible,” said Marcus Williams, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge. “Through asset forfeiture, we hit the bad guys where it hurts the most — in their wallets.”

Ferreira said the department is “happy to get the money.”

“The forfeiture money always comes into great use for us. “… We’ve used it in the past for projects that we’ve had, like our records management system, an upgrade in our CAD (computer-aided dispatch), we’ve used it for bulletproof vests for our Special Response Team, and most recently, we’ve used it for islandwide training via Internet.”

[...]

“These funds will greatly help during these tough economic times in moving forward with purchasing software critical to our accreditation process,” he said. “In meeting standards set by CALEA, it is vitally important to have well-trained officers. These funds will help in that area. We will also use these funds to upgrade our records management system.”

That’s fine as far as it goes, but there is no consideration given to the opportunity cost here. The police can meet their budget more easily, but maybe a different branch of the government needed the money more. If forfeiture funds were directed to the Big Island’s general fund, its legislative body could allocate this money based on a more comprehensive analysis of the area’s needs. However, the rules of equitable sharing ensure that only law enforcement can profit from forfeiture–the complete opposite of the way it should work.

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