Some Missouri schools lack effective air conditioning.
Some Missouri school children shiver at their desks because the budget is tight.
Some Missouri schools share textbooks.
All Missouri schools could use a little more help in their funding: a few new books, a roof repair, another teacher or afterschool activity to help keep kids in school and away from drugs.
Many police cars in Missouri never shut off. They happily burn precious gasoline for hours on end while the officers sitting in them blast the air conditioning or heat. The officers are comfortable, sporting new equipment purchased from the Feds with asset forfeiture funds for pennies on the dollar.
Other Missouri cops dig into fine dining and give each other awards, celebrating the money confiscated through asset forfeiture, money that has largely been returned to department to purchase toys, dinners, awards and serve as a general slush fund. These funds have been misused by law enforcement across the nation. But in Missouri, it is supposed to be different.
In Missouri, the police aren’t supposed to steal from the schoolchildren.
Yet they do.
Columbia, Mo., Chief of Police Ken “Pennies” Burton made regional and national news for describing federal asset forfeiture returns as “pennies from heaven.” Burton recently received permission from the Columbia City Council to spend asset forfeiture money to purchase wearable cameras for his officers.
But Burton’s “pennies” come with a price.
Some assets are confiscated from people who have not been convicted a crime. Those people experience strong-arm robbery at the hands of street gang. There is little to no difference between having your property stolen by criminal and having your property stolen by a cop. The only difference is recourse. If a criminal steals your stuff, you can call a cop.
But when a cop steals your stuff, attempting to stop him is a crime that will result in years as a guest of the Missouri Department of Corrections, which leaves the victim only two choices: hire an attorney or bend over and take it. Hiring an attorney to reclaim your property is pointless – except when there are significant sums involved. It is an expensive long process with the deck stacked against you.
The process is simple. If the cops find a significant amount of property they want to keep, they call in the DEA or other federal agency. The feds seize the property and return a large percentage back to the department. It is just like the old mafia business: Vito brought his idea to the Don. The Don blessed it and Vito kicked a share up to the Don.
If there is a smaller amount, the local law enforcement may simply confiscate it and send it over to the prosecuting attorney for forfeiture. Once the property is forfeited in this manner, 100% of the proceeds are transferred to Missouri schools.
Missouri law requires forfeited funds to benefit the schools.
So, when the police want to throw a party, buy some swag, or give each other awards, they bring in a fed and circumvent Missouri law.
This essentially means that the local and state police departments decided that they are above Missouri law and they should make a profit from their policing. And they do.
Millions of dollars funnel into Missouri law enforcement coffers through this system – Millions of dollars that should be spent teaching our youth.
In Columbia, the city council questioned the distribution of funds. They still approve the theft of money from Missouri schools, but at least they started questioning.
It is an old maxim among detectives and reporters: follow the money. When you find out who profits, you find out who had motive for the crime. It is time to end policing for profit.