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At the Maneater (the student publication of the University of Missouri-Columbia), Laurien Rose reports:

Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton told the Citizens Police Review Board at its last meeting he hoped to buy on-body cameras for officers of the police department by next budget.

“They’d be purchasable for next budget on Oct. 1, 2013,” Burton said. “We come across forfeiture funds sometimes. We get into these dope investigations sometimes and end up with funds granted to us, so it’s not to say that we couldn’t do it sooner.”

Board member Daniel Jacob asked Burton how forfeiture funds were used.

“It’s usually based on a need — well, I take that back,” Burton said. “There’s some limitations on it. … Actually, there’s not really on the forfeiture stuff. We just usually base it on something that would be nice to have that we can’t get in the budget, for instance. We try not to use it for things that we need to depend on because we need to have those purchased. It’s kind of like pennies from heaven — it gets you a toy or something that you need is the way that we typically look at it to be perfectly honest.”

Forfeiture is defined as the government seizure of property connected to illegal activity, according to Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute.

“The clear proceeds of all penalties, forfeitures and fines collected hereafter for any breach of the penal laws of the state, the net proceeds from the sale of estrays, and all other moneys coming into said funds shall be distributed annually to the schools of the several counties according to law,” the Missouri Constitution states.

In 1995, the Missouri legislature delegated that all forfeitures of assets shall be appropriated to a designated fund. The School Building Revolving Fund created from the forfeiture funds provides financial assistance to Missouri school districts financing capital construction projects.

“We don’t waste it,” Burton said. “It’s nice to be able to pick and choose.”

Blue Team, a program that documents every officer’s use of force while on the job, was purchased with forfeiture funds, Burton said.

“Burton does not have the legal authority to use asset forfeiture revenues in any fashion,” Americans for Forfeiture Reform creator Eapen Thampy said. “The law clearly requires him to deposit this money with the schools. Last year, Missouri auditor Thomas A. Schweich foundthat not a single law enforcement agency submitted an independently audited report of money received by participating in federal forfeiture programs, as is also required by the law.”

As diligent AFR readers know, we’ve tangled on numerous occasions with the Columbia, Missouri police department over the use of asset forfeiture funds. Indeed, forfeiture revenues has been a primary driver of the Columbia Police Department’s drug enforcement efforts for the last decade, and are particularly relevant to the eventual decisions by then-SWAT commander Tom Dresner to utilize SWAT teams for non-violent warrant service. Marijuana offenses and other drug offenses where seizeable cash or property might be found.
While Keep Columbia Free fully acknowledges that there are legitimate uses for SWAT, i.e. hostage situations, armed bank robberies, armed standoffs and the like, we believe that SWAT is overused to serve search warrants dealing with consensual, non-violent crimes. In the time frame covered by this map, one would expect a SWAT deployment 10 or 15 times, not 99.
Moreover, the Columbia Police Department has been absolutely frigid with respect to the information they’ve released to us regarding the use of their forfeiture funds despite repeated public requests for transparency. Last year, the Columbia Police Department deleted an online poll about how they should use their Facebook page, a violation of my First Amendment rights.
There is the issue of the specific request Columbia Police Department is making (cameras for police officers). While I support this general policy, I disagree with Chief Burton’s use of forfeiture funds to procure equipment. Such requests should be submitted through the normal appropriations process, and no law enforcement agency should use (fungible) forfeiture revenue to expand their departments outside the normal system of checks and balances. Indeed, America’s constitutional republic was founded on the notion that citizens retained the rights to internal governance and particularly to control how their public servants and agencies were paid:
 And we look upon it highly probable, from the best intelligence we have been able to obtain, that not only our Governor and Lieutenant Governor, but the Judges of the Superior Court of Judicature, as also the King’s Attorney and Solicitor General are to receive their Support from this grievous tribute. This will, if accomplish’d, complete our Slavery. For if Taxes are to be raised from us by the Parliament of Great Britain without our consent, and the Men on whose opinions and decisions our Properties, Liberties, and Lives in a great measure depend, receive their Support from the Revenues arising from these Taxes, we cannot, when we think on the depravity of mankind, avoid looking with horror on the danger to which we are exposed! . . .
If Chief Burton wants his officer cameras he should submit a budget to the Columbia City Council including a request for such an allocation of funds. Chief Burton should henceforth send any proceeds from asset forfeiture proceedings to Missouri’s School Building Revolving Fund, and discontinue participation with federal agencies offering forfeiture payouts for participation in investigations.

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