Tim Knauss, of Syracuse.com, reports that Syracuse (NY) Police are pointedly refusing to publicly divulge what they are doing with asset forfeiture funds that they seize from the public while demanding more funding from the public:
City councilor Jake Barrett chaired a public safety committee meeting Wednesday in hopes of learning more about money and vehicles that flow into the city police department from state and federal asset forfeiture programs.Faced with a $1.3 million request from police to buy new vehicles, councilors sought information about the off-budget cash, cars or other assets that come to the police department after being seized from criminals. “There is not a whole lot of information that is known,’’ Barrett said at the top of the meeting. An hour later, not much had changed.Police Chief Frank Fowler repeatedly told the five councilors at the meeting he would not publicly divulge information about vehicles or equipment obtained through asset forfeiture programs. Assets seized in connection with federal crimes are distributed to police agencies by the U.S. Department of Justice. Assets from state crimes are directed to the police by the Onondaga County district attorney’s office, Inspector John Kolis said.The amount of money received each year is unpredictable, but it is typically in the range of about $400,000, Kolis said. The money is not accounted for in the city budget. Fowler said his department reports back to federal and state officials on how the money is used, but he would not provide any details publicly to city officials. He offered to brief them confidentially. Equipment purchased with seized funds is used to fight crime, often in undercover operations, he said.“Most of this stuff is used in a covert fashion,’’ Fowler said. “We don’t want the general public or the bad guys to know what we possess.’’ Excerpted from Tim Knauss, Syracuse cops give up few details on asset forfeiture funds, Syracuse.com, 07 Feb. 2013.
At minimum, city counselors should exercise their power of the purse and deny further local funding to the Syracuse Police until they relent and return the secret slush funds to the duly elected representatives of the people.