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From the Baltimore Sun:

Rank-and-file police officers are accusing the small department in Westminster of misspending money seized from drug suspects by buying iPads and iPhones for top commanders….

“Clearly, someone disagrees with the manner in which some of the forfeiture funds have been spent,” said Westminster Police Chief Jeffrey Spaulding, declining to confirm, as the law firm alleges, that he and his top commanders — a major and three captains — have iPhones or iPads purchased with funds collected as part of criminal forfeitures.

The mayor refused to say how much money the city has gotten from the asset forfeiture program, or release an annual audit of the programs at participating police agencies in Carroll County.

“We’re not going to release anything from the city of Westminster until we have a chance to talk to our attorney,” Utz said. “Then we’ll be able to respond. I have nothing to hide.”

Expenditures from asset forfeiture programs must follow guidelines from the U.S. Department of Justice. McLhinney said he is not alleging that the spending was illegal but that it was inappropriate. The guidelines, for example, allow money to be spent on computers and communication equipment.

Accounting standards for asset forfeiture programs are notoriously opaque and many states do not require law enforcement to keep track of their forfeiture funds. The article suggests that the disputed money came from equitable sharing payments, which would make spending the money on iPhones and iPads not illegal but “inappropriate”. Regardless, it’s telling that the Mayor refuses to release an audit of a public agency without first speaking with a lawyer. Whenever the public attempts to hold law enforcement accountable for the way asset forfeiture is applied and how the money is spent, they are met with stonewalling and obfuscation.

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